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Superb Collectiori 

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Next issue on sate 
20 September 1979 

COVER, “Enemy Mine” Vincent Di Fate 


ON BOOKS Baird Searles 

The Backward Look Isaac Asimov 

Dracula Makes a Martini Martin Gardner 


Jenning’s Operative Webster J. E. Walters 


OF PHYSICS .Milton A. Rothman 

SHAWNA, Ltd Frederick Longbeard 

Solo Steve Perry and Jesse Peel 

The Adventure of the Solitary Engineer John M. Ford 

Enemy Mine Barry B. Longyear 















Joel Davis: President & Publisher Isaac Asimov: Editorial Director 

George H. Scithers: Editor 

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Publishing the best of the new writers 
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by Isaac Asimov 

art: Frank Kelly Freas 

Like every specialized occupation, sci- 
ence fiction writing has a vocabulary of 
its own; and the more advanced writers 
assume the reader understands that vo- 
cabulary. Occasionally, this sets up a bar- 
rier against the new reader, who finds 
difficulty in understanding what’s being 

Thus, a reader once wrote to ask the 
difference between "android” and "robot” 
saying, "I have been trying to find out, 
but so far have gotten no satisfactory ex- 

Well, this is the right shop for expla- 
nations. The only difficulty is that I don’t 
like explain anything briefly, so be patient. 

The Greek word "anthropos” means "human being,” and from that 
comes the adjective "anthropoid.” Since the suffix "-oid” is from the 
Greek word for "form,” "anthropoid” means "humaniform” or "re- 
sembling a human being in form.” 

"Anthropoid” entered the ordinary language in recent centuries, 
when Europeans became particularly conscious of the apes of Africa 
and southeast Asia. The word "ape” was originally given to the 
tailless Barbary ape of North Africa. The new species-chimpanzee, 
gorilla, orangutan, and various gibbons-are also apes, since they 
are tailless; but they are much more human in appearance than the 
Barbary apes are. The newly-discovered apes were therefore distin- 
guished from the longer-known one by being called "anthropoid 

Since in English, there is a continuous drive toward shortening 
and simplifying the language, there is a tendency to drop a noun 
in any oft-used adjective-noun combination and to use the adjective 
alone as the noun. This is frowned upon by careful users of the 
language, but it is constantly being done. For instance, I have heard 
apes referred to as "anthropoids” in absolute contradiction of the 
actual meaning of the word. 


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The proper word for "apelike” is "pithecoid” from "pithekos,” the 
Greek word for "ape.” 

The Greek word "andros,” means "man,” as used for a male human 
being rather than for the species generally. The word "android” 
means "male-like,” but it is usually defined as "man-like” with the 
careless unconcern that marks the male chauvinism of the English 

Now, then, if a scientist were to produce an artificial device that 
had the shape and appearance of a human being and imitated the 
functioning of a living being, the proper name for it would be "an 
anthropoid device,” or, using the adjective only, "an anthropoid.” 

This term is not used, probably because of the apelike flavor of 
the word. Instead, the artificial human being is "an android device” 
or "an android.” 

Strictly speaking, an android should be an artificial device with 
the appearance of a male human being. One with the appearance 
of a female human being would be a "gynoid,” from the Greek word 
"gynos” meaning "woman.” However, I have never seen the word 
"gynoid” used for any artificial device of human appearance. "An- 
droid” is used for artificial devices that mimic either sex-or, for that 
matter, that are neuter. 

But if an android is an artificial human being, where does "robot” 
come in? 

In 1920, the Czech playwright, Karel Capek, published a play* 
named which was first performed in 1921 andfirst translated 
into English in 1923. The initials "R.U.R.” stand for "Rossum’s Uni- 
versal Robots.” Rossum is the name of the Englishman who, in the 
play, mass-produced a line of mechanical human beings intended 
to do the work of the world. 

Why "robot”? Because it is from a Czech word "robota” meaning 
one who is engaged in involuntary servitude; in other words a 
"slave.” In translating the play into English, it would have been 
appropriate to translate "robot” into "slave.” "Slave,” however, is 
a word commonly used for human beings; and it would make it 
difficult to distinguish between the natural and the artificial va- 
riety. "Robot,” not being an English word, could fairly be left un- 
translated and be used for the artificial variety, to distinguish it 
from the natural. 

Capek’s play is, in my own opinion, a terribly bad one; but it is 

*Odd that the word "robot” should have been invented in the year of my birth. Pure 



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immortal for that one word. It contributed the word "robot” not only 
to English but, through English, to all the languages in which sci- 
ence fiction is now written. 

Strictly speaking, "robot” and "android” both refer to artificial 
human beings and might be synonymous. However, in the many 
robot stories that appeared in the science fiction magazines from 
1926 onward, the robots were almost always described and pictured 
as being constructed of metal. Consequently, "robot” has come to 
refer specifically to an artificial human being built largely or en- 
tirely of metal. 

Any artificial human being built of substances more closely re- 
sembling human tissues retains the older name "android.” -And 
that is the distinction between the two words. 

There is an irony here. Capek, in the play, R.U.R., in which the 
word "robot” was invented, described artificial human beings that 
were not robots in the present-day sense. They were androids. 

We’re not through. Consider the Greek word "automatos,” which 
means "self-acting.” Any device that is self-acting, and does not 
require constant human direction, is said to be an "automatic de- 

We might imagine an artificial human being would be called an 
automatic device and then, through noun-dropping, an "automatic.” 
However, the word "automatic,” has already been obtained through 
noun-dropping from "automatic pistol” and refers to a self-loading 

Instead, the related word "automaton” is used for an artificial 
human being. However, "self-acting” seems to imply moving ac- 
cording to a fixed plan without much, if any, leeway for modification. 
Consequently, "automaton” could be used for an android or robot 
(or, if it comes to that, for a human being) without much, if any, 
intelligence. Science fiction robots are usually pretty intelligent so 
"automaton” is not much used. 

-How about Latin? The word "homo” in Latin means "man” and 
from "homo” is derived the adjective, "humanus.” This gives us our 
own adjective "human.” We can speak, therefore, of "human beings,” 
or, dropping the noun, "humans.” Well, then, would not an artificial 
object of human shape be a "humanoid?” 

Yes, indeed; but "android” fills that niche. Instead, in science 
fiction writing, "humanoid” is usually used for a living creature of 
human shape, one that has been born or has evolved and not one 
that has been made-but one that has been bom or has evolved on 
some planet other than Earth. 





by David 

Barry B. 




e^ii 1979 Edttion I 

^ TheFaUl r 

—in tt. ®!"°"?The Thing® 

M ®.:s:r4ws»»" « 

Biaw fterrold; me jaren, 

**^Barry B 

IT6 60 


And when it s 
by Isaac Asimov 
it’s just got to 
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and fun. 

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Apt. No. 




The Latin word for "Earth” is "Terra.” Any living species that has 
evolved on Earth is a "terrestrial being”; any living species that has 
evolved on some planet other than Earth is an "extraterrestrial 
being” (where "extra” is a Latin word meaning "on the outside.”) 
In the case of "extraterrestrial beings” it is quite common, in science 
fiction, to drop the noun and speak of "extraterrestrials.” 

Strictly speaking, any species that has evolved on some planet 
other than Earth is an extraterrestrial; but in science fiction, the 
term is usually restricted to intelligent species. If the species should 
happen to be human in appearance, it is also humanoid. 

The Latin word "monstrum” means "an omen that warns against 
misfortunes” from "monere” meaning "to warn.” Animals or human 
beings who are born misshapen were considered divine warning of 
misfortune to come, and in English they are called "monsters.” 

Mary Shelley applied the term to the large, misshapen being that 
Frankenstein formed out of bits and pieces of dead body-parts; and 
it was "Frankenstein’s monster.” Because of the influence of that 
book the word "monster” is used for any living object that is unu- 

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sually large and terrifying. Hence, the sub-category of "monster 

The word "golem” in Hebrew represents a shapeless mass not yet 
given life; in that sense it is close to "monster” in the Frankenstein 
sense. The related Arabic word "ghulam” means "servant,” and in 
that sense the word is close to "robot.” A "golem,” I think, would be 
a robot that is given life through religious spells rather than through 
scientific principles. 

There you are. Gentle Reader: write to me if any part of the science 
fiction vocabulary puzzles you; and now and then I will devote an 
editorial, or part of one, to such matters. 



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by Baird Searles 

Janissaries by Jerry Pournelle, Ace Books (paper), $6.95. 

The Dancers of Arun by Elizabeth A. Lynn, Berkley Publishing 
Corp., $9.95. 

Castle Roogna by Piers Anthony, Del Rey Books (paper), $1.95. 

Hot Sleea: The Worthing Chronicle by Orson Scott Card, Ace Books 
ipauer). $2.25. 

Chrome by George Nader. Jove (naner). $1.75 
The Language of the Night by Ursula K. Le Guin. Putnam, $9.9.' 
Don't Bite the Sun by Tanith Lee. DAW Books (paper). $1.75. 
Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human: The Graphic Story Version 
adapted by Alex Ninn and Doug Moench. Simon and Schuster 
‘■paper ' 5. 

Boris: Book i wo by Lons \ aiiejo, Anaconda Press .paper), $7.95 

I feel that one of the functions of this column, aside from running 
down and/or digging up good reading matter for you addicts, is at 
times to alert you to events and trends in science fiction publishing. 
Herewith one such, the sudden advent of the "trade’' or oversized 
paperback into the fiction area. ( I say fiction as opposed to SF/fantasy 
art books, which have been around for a while. ) 

More and more fiction is being initially published in this format, 
which is not only large-sized, but large-priced-anywhere from $4.95 
to $8.95. It seems to be filling the gap between the regular paper- 
backs and the hard covers, which are now so astronomical in price 
that a novel must almost be a for-sure best seller to justify its being 
published that way. But even the trade paperback price is a stiff 
tariff to ask. Presumably the publishers find it economically re- 
warding; authors may, depending on what kind of deal they’ve made 
with the publisher; it’s the readers who lose. A paperback is still a 
paperback, no matter how big it is; and the only asset for the reader, 
and it’s a debatable one, is that some of these books are illustrated. 
That’s nice in theory, but it obviously depends on the quality of the 
illustrations as to whether they’re worth part of that extra outlay. 

But for those of you on a limited book budget, be aware that it 
is almost certain that all the trade editions will eventually appear 
in mass-market (regular paperback) format. 

A perfect example is Jerry Pournelle’s Janissaries. It’s a dandy 

piece of classic science fiction; and the illustrations by Bermejo, in 
this case, are quite good indeed; and there are certainly a lot of them 
("massively illustrated,” it says on the cover). 

Janissaries concerns a CIA-backed outfit of mercenaries, about 
to be wiped out in Africa, who are rescued by a flying saucer (have 
you noticed that UFOs in the traditional sense are now respectable 
in SF?). The mixed alien and humanoid crew demand as a price of 
rescue that the mercenaries supervise the growing and harvesting 
of a certain plant on a far-distant planet; with very little choice, 
they agree. 

The planet Tran turns out to be inhabited by humans, descendants 
of successive waves brought in at 600-year intervals to harvest the 
mysterious crop, which grows in cycle with the erratic orbit of the 
third sun of a triple sun system. So we have kingdoms of wild Celtic 
mountain men, a mini-Roman Empire complete with togas, and so 
on. There is dissidence within the mercenary group and lots of prob- 
lems outside it, a beautiful princess, battles, and intrigue, as the 
third sun grows nearer, bringing with it the promise of planet-wide 
natural disasters and the return of the star-travelling aliens. 

As I said, it’s good, classic, militaristically knowledgeable SF. 
And, by the way, militaristic is not a negative word in my book; and 
I’m tired of it being thrown as an epithet (mostly by outsiders) at 
the field. SF has traditional roots in the action/adventure writing 
school, and it’s a little hard to have action and adventure on any 
scale without employing Empires and Armies. 

Back to the original point, though. Whether you will want to pay 
$6.95 for Janissaries, good as it may be, is up to you. 

Elizabeth A. Lynn’s proposed trilogy that began with Watchtower 
is also militarist, in an anti-militarist sort of way. Part two is at 
hand, titled The Dancers ofArun. 

Watchtower bothered me, because despite the obvious writing tal- 
ents of the author, it didn’t seem to be much of one thing or another. 
Obviously taking place on Earth, given the food, flora, and fauna, 
but in a locale and period unplaceable, it had nothing but a hint of 
any fantasy elements and, aside from the milieu, could almost have 
been a historical novel. 

The Dancers ofArun is a little more like it. It takes place several 
generations after Watchtower and concerns the flowering of the paci- 
fist warrior cult, the chearis, whose beginning we saw in the first 
book. It also has to do with the witchgifts, psychic powers up to now 
more or less verboten in the culture. 




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The protagonist is the crippled younger brother of a leading 
cl^eari; the brothers have long been separated; and Kel, the older, 
takes Kerris to share the life of the chearis, with the painful knowl- 
edge that he can never become one because of his physical disability. 
But there is also the matter of developing Kerris’s witchgift, and 
Ms. Lynn coolly introduces incest as another factor. 

I like her societal concepts (the chearis’ use of dance is particularly 
striking); I like her people, who are complex and interesting; in all, 
I like her writing. But perhaps The Dancers of Arun is yet a bit 
overbalanced with character rather than concept, and concept is 
still the excrement of fantasy and SF. 

On the other hand, there is such a thing as going too far in the 
other direction. Piers Anthony, in his trilogy beginning with A Spell 
for Chameleon, apparently decided to invest his magical land of 
Xanth with every fantastical concept ever invented. It has quests, 
enchanted castles, riddles, unicorns, griffins, mermaids, giants (not 
to mention invisible giants), zombies, ghosts, elves, magicians, man- 
eating trees, enchantresses, and a host of inventions from Anthony’s 
own fertile mind. Every person, animal, creature, plant, and even 
rock in Xanth is magic or has a magical talent; the resulting stories 
are giddy, fast-paced as a Concorde, and a bit too cute for my taste. 
It’s like Oz raised to the Nth power of bedlam. 

For instance, in the third book about Xanth, Castle Roogna, we 
almost immediately run into umbrella and parasol trees, a pillow 
bush, bug-bomb weeds, and a vegetarian ogre named Crunch who 
speaks in abominable rhyming couplets. We’re in the second gen- 
eration here, since our hero is young Dor, son of the main characters 
of Chameleon. His talent is talking to inanimate objects; and he and 
Grundy, the ex-golum, set out at the behest of the King of Xanth 
to consult the good magician Humfrey as to how to bring Jonathan, 
the zombie, back to life because the ex-ghost, Millie, is in love with 

Do you get the general idea? 

On the plus side, the action is non-stop and the sheer amount of 
invention is awesome. On the negative side, there is the aforemen- 
tioned cuteness which extends itself to a rather sniggery attitude 
toward sex and females that may set some people’s teeth on edge. 
On my part. I’m not unhappy to see lovely Xanth sink slowly in the 

No, Orson Scott Card is not a tv wag who wrote the national 

anthem. He is an up-and-coming, prize-winning young science fic- 
tion writer; and his latest novel, Hot Sleep: The Worthing Chronicle, 
is not likely to do his career any harm, despite its title. 

The story is told from several viewpoints; and also uses extensive 
quotes from future history texts, collage fashion. It still breaks down 
into two major sections. In the first, we are introduced to a rather 
dreary future, a human interstellar Empire spread over an unspec- 
ified number of planets, most or all of which by their nature confine 
their inhabitants to enclosed cities. Even worse are the Colonies, 
just as dreary but more primitive, where naughty people are sent. 

The whole society revolves around a drug called somec, which 
suspends life indefinitely. It is used for interstellar travel, of course, 
but even more importantly as a plaything for the rich, who extend 
their lives over many centuries. Due to this, the culture of the 
Empire has reached near-stasis. 

This initial section deals with a complex, wheels-within-wheels 
plot to do something about this; in other words, a revolution. It 
results in starship Captain Jazz Worthing taking off with a shipload 
of somec’d colonists to start a new world outside the Empire. 

Up to here I was reminded of the best work of Alfred Bester in 
its neatly worked out decadent society, revolving around an elite 
who virtually live forever. 

The second part of the book is merely the history of the founding 
of a world society and its progress from 102 inhabitants to and 
beyond half a million. Card manages to carry this off with only a 
few sags; it’s a tour de force performance. Particularly interesting 
is the initial problem he sets Worthing. Somec wipes out the memory 
on waking, therefore brain content tapes are made before taking it 
to reindividualize the sleeper afterwards. The tapes for Worthing’s 
colonists are destroyed; therefore, he starts his world with 100 mind- 
less, adult infants. 

The author inevitably gets in a bit of sociological philosophizing- 
who could resist when chronicling the genesis of a society? Luckily, 
he doesn’t overload his story with message. 

There is an odd category of SF for which there is no handy term, 
but it is science fiction written by an author who doesn’t know much 
about science fiction and its conventions. This can result in works 
as disparate as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Jacqueline 
Susann’s Yargo. The quality can range from the kind of thing that 
contains ghastly bloopers in logic and knowledge (the use of "in- 
tergalactic” for "interstellar,” for instance) to a work of some fresh- 



ness and originality. 

Movie actor George Nader (star, we must point out, of such SF 
epics as The Human Duplicators) has written a novel called Chrome 
that very much epitomizes this kind of out-of-left-field SF. It’s a 
curious stew concerning an extremely militaristic (here we go 
again!) future Earth populated by humans and androids co-existing 
with an extraterrestrial warrior race that may or may not dominate 
humanity. The dual heros are a Warrior King named Vortex (urgh) 
and a human cadet. Chrome. But who is human and who is android? 
Who is really running things? Will Chrome and Vortex be reunited 
and live happily ever after? (The story is specifically and sometimes 
graphically homoerotic.) 

As science fiction. Chrome is for the most part pretty naive. But 
Mr. Nader is a better writer than actor (how’s that for ambiguous 
criticism?) and there are ideas and moments here which do have 
that new and oblique view that an outsider can bring to any field. 

A collection of essays on fantasy and science fiction by Ursula K. 
Le Guin has been published under the title The Language of the 
Night. They are from various sources: introductions to her own and 
others’ books; pamphlets from small presses; and in one case, her 
National Book Award acceptance speech. A considered opinion of 
this talented author’s thoughts on the fields in which she is so 
skillful asks for a good deal more space than I have here; it w'ould 
be sheer hubris for me to try it. However, as a valuable addition to 
the works about SF and fantasy, its publication should be noted. 

A most welcome reprint is that of Tanith Lee’s Don’t Bite the Sun. 
It is that rarest of rare birds, a truly and sophisticatedly funny SF 
novel, one of the few that have ever made me laugh aloud. Curiously 
enough, it’s a sort of "twilight of mankind” story, of a far future 
with humanity gathered in a few scientifically Utopic cities that 
can provide almost anything for their inhabitants. The young peo- 
ple, the Jang, are a rigid social class who spend their time shoplift- 
ing, sabotaging things, changing sex, killing themselves, and taking 
drugs; i.e., not behaving too differently from those of today, but 
doing it with a good deal more inventiveness, style, and wit (revival 
after suicide is easy for the cities’ science), thanks to Ms. Lee. 

All in all, the city Four BEE is something like Arthur C. Clarke’s 
lovely Diaspar (of The City and the Stars) gone totally bananas. Our 
heroine/hero’s various adventures in this electronic Bedlam are hi- 
larious, particularly those with a fuzzy, white, six-legged pet she/he 

has filched. Buried beneath, though, is a serious study of coming- 
of-age, which is concluded in the equally funny sequel, Drinking 
Sapphire Wine. 

The worst idea of the year so far, in my opinion, is a "graphic 
story version” of More Than Human-, in other words, a big comic 
book of Theodore Sturgeon’s great SF classic. On the most obvious 
level, it doesn’t lend itself to visuals well, with its here-and-now 
setting and characters whose very point is their surface mundanity. 
And Alex Nino’s big-eyed tots that look like a second generation of 
those awful Keene kids that haunted every dime store in the 1950s 
don’t help. 

On a more general level, is the comic field so creatively poverty 
stricken that it can’t come up with its own original material made 
for visualization, rather than raiding written literature? I’m not 
against comics; they can be wonderful fun in a simplistic kind of 
way; but I resent their diluting stories told in words, in the same 
way I resent Disney diluting The Jungle Books with cute songs. 

And finally, it’s too bad that SF has gotten to a point where it 
needs "Classic Comic” versions of its great older works; one of the 
prides of the field has been its literate younger readership. 

My diatribe re trade paperbacks at the beginning of this piece did 
not, of course, extend to art books; pictures need the extra size for 
full appreciation, and the extra cost is unfortunately justified by the 
high expense of color reproduction. A splendid example of this genre 
is a second book devoted to the work of the extraordinary cover 
artist and illustrator, Boris Vallejo, called, logically enough, Boris, 
Book Two. 

In ways, this is more interesting than Book One, which had a 
rigid format of color painting after color painting. Book Two has 
more of a scrapbook quality, with many black-and-white drawings 
and cartoons, some comic work, comments by the artist scattered 
throughout, and photographs of him from teenaged esthete violinist 
to body-building maturity (he much resembles his own heroic fig- 

And there are color paintings aplenty, not only those in the Fra- 
zetta tradition (in which, for my money, Boris has outdone Frazetta 
at this point) such as the cover (a poster for the New Saint Mark’s 
Baths in New York City, of all things), but less-standard works, 
several of which are a revelation, seen enlarged from their be-let- 
tered and tiny paperback-cover format. The two for Z For Zachariah 



and A Place Beyond Man are particularly striking. 

There is also an introduction by Philip Jose Farmer and a checklist 
of Boris’s covers and posters. 


Astronomers discover ethyl alcohol in interstellar space-News item 

There’s a beat among stars in celestial bars 
That eluded astronomers’ eyes. 

They had long been aware of the ferment Out There, 

But they couldn’t discover the prize. 

Simultaneous passes with dishes and glasses 
Then sent their morale through the roof. 

They were simply amazed how their spirits were raised, 

And they quickly established the proof. 

Though research may be slowed by their staggering load. 

They may find, if they give it a shot. 

The sobering news reinforcing the views 
That the cosmos is running to pot. 

—Jeanne Hopkins 



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2.25 8/20/79 j 


, by Isaac Asimov 

- art:' Jack Gaiighan 


Not only is Dr. Asimov a member of the 
Trap-Door Spiders— the organization 
that inspired these tales of the Black 
W indowers — but so is the 
astronomer. Dr. Kenneth Franklin, 
who straightened out your editor 
( another member) on a fine point 
on eclipses during the preparation 
of this story for the typesetter. 

If Emmanuel Rubin knew how not to be didactic, he never exer- 
cised that knowledge. 

"When you write a short story,” he said, "you had better know 
the ending first. The end of a story is only the end to a reader. To 
a writer, it’s the beginning. If you don’t know exactly where 
you’re going every minute that you’re writing, you’ll never get 
there — or anywhere.” 

Thomas Trumbull’s young guest at this particular monthly 
banquet of the Black Widowers seemed all eyes as he watched 
Rubin’s straggly gray beard quiver and his thick-lensed glasses 
glint; and all ears as he listened to Rubin’s firm, decibelic voice. 

The guest himself was clearly in the early twenties, quite thin, 
with a somewhat bulging forehead and a rather diminutive chin. 
His clothing almost glistened in its freshness, as though he had 
broken out a brand-new costume for the great occasion. His name 
was Milton Peterborough. 

He said, a small quiver in his voice, "Does that mean you have 
to write an outline, Mr. Rubin?” 

"No,” said Rubin, emphatically. "You can if you want to, but I 
never do. You don’t have to know the exact road you’re going to 
take. You have to know your destination, that’s all. Once that’s 
the case, any road will take you there. As you write you are con- 
tinually looking backward from that known destination, and it’s 
that backward look that guides you.” 

Mario Gonzalo, who was quickly and carefully drawing a cari- 
cature of the guest, making his eyes incredibly large and filling 
them with a childlike innocence, said, "Come on, Manny, that sort 
of tight plotting might fit your cockamamie mysteries, but a real 
writer deals with character, doesn’t he? He creates people; and 
they behave in accordance with their characters; and that guides 
the story, probably to the surprise of the author.” 


Rubin turned slowly and said, "If you’re talking about long, in- 
vertebrate novels, Mario — assuming you’re talking about any- 
thing at all — it’s possible for an experienced or gifted writer to 
meander along and produce something passable. But you can al- 
ways tell the I-don’t-know-where-I’m-going-but-I’m-going book. 
Even if you forgive it its amorphous character for the sake of its 
virtues, you have to forgive it, and that’s a strain and a drawback. 
A tightly-plotted story with everything fitting together neatly is, 
on the other hand, the noblest work of literature. It may be bad, 
but it never need ask forgiveness. The backward look — ’’ 

At the other end of the room, Geoffrey Avalon glanced with res- 
ignation at Rubin and said, "I think it was a mistake, Tom, to tell 
Manny at the start that the young man was an aspiring writer. It 
brings out the worst in him, or — at any rate— the longest- 
winded.’’ He stirred the ice in his drink with his forefinger and 
brought his dark eyebrows together forbiddingly. 

"Actually,” said Thomas Trumbull, his lined face uncharac- 
teristically placid, "the kid wanted to meet Manny. He admired his 
stories, God knows why. Well, he’s the son of a friend of mine and 
a nice youngster and I thought I’d expose him to the seamy side of 
life by bringing him here.” 

Avalon said, "It won’t hurt us to be exposed to youth now and 
then, either. But I hate being exposed to Rubin’s theories of 
literature. — Henry.” 

The quiet and smoothly efficient waiter, who served at all the 
Black Widowers’ banquets, was at his side at once without seem- 
ing to have moved in order to have achieved that. "Yes, sir?” 

"Henry,” said Avalon, "what are these strange manifestations?” 

Henry said, "Tonight we will have a buffet dinner. The chef has 
prepared a variety of Indian and Pakistani dishes.” 

"With curry?” 

"Rather heavy on the curry, sir. It was Mr. Trumbull’s special 

Trumbull flared under Avalon’s accusing eye, "I wanted curry 
and I’m the host.” 

"And Manny won’t eat it and will be unbearable.” 

Trumbull shrugged. 

Rubin was not entirely unbearable but he was loud, and only 
Roger Halsted seemed unaffected by the Rubinian tirade against 
all things Indian. He said, "A buffet is a good idea,” patted his 
lips with his napkin and went back for a third helping of every- 



thing, with a beatific smile on his face. 

Trumbull said, "Roger, if you don’t stop eating, we’ll start the 
grilling session over your chewing.” 

"Go ahead,” said Halsted, cheerfully. "I don’t mind.” 

"You will later tonight,” said Rubin, "when your stomach-wall 
bums through.” 

Trumbull said, "And you’re going to start the grilling.” 

"If you don’t mind my talking with my mouth full,” said Hal- 

"Get started, then.” 

Halsted said thickly, "How do you justify your existence. Mil- 

"I can’t,” said Peterborough, a little breathlessly. "Maybe after I 
get my degrees.” 

"What’s your school and major?” 

"Columbia and chemistry.” 

"Chemistry?” said Halsted. "I would have thought it was En- 
glish. Didn’t I gather during the cocktail hour that you were an 
aspiring writer?” 

"Anyone is allowed to be an aspiring writer,” said Peter- 

"Aspiring,” said Rubin, darkly. 

"And what do you want to write?” said Halsted. 

Peterborough hesitated and said, with a trace of defensiveness 
in his voice, "Well, I’ve always been a science fiction fan. Since I 
was nine, anyway.” 

"Oh, God,” muttered Rubin, his eyes rolling upward in mute 

Gonzalo said instantly, "Science fiction? That’s what your friend 
Isaac Asimov writes, isn’t it, Manny?” 

"He’s not my friend,” said Rubin. "He clings to me out of help- 
less admiration.” 

Trumbull raised his voice. "Will you two stop having a private 
conversation? Go on, Roger.” 

"Have you written any science fiction?” 

"I’ve tried, but I haven’t submitted anything. I’m going to, 
though. I have to.” 

"Why do you have to?” 

"I made a bet.” 

"What kind?” 

"Well;” said Peterborough, helplessly. "It’s rather 
complicated — and embarrassing.” 


"We don’t mind the complications,” said Halsted, "and we’ll try 
not to be embarrassed.” 

"Well,” said Peterborough, and there appeared on his face some- 
thing that had not been seen at the Black Widowers banquets for 
years, a richly -tinted blush, "there’s this girl. I’m sort of era— I 
like her, but I don’t think she likes me, but I like her anyway. 
The trouble is she goes for a basketball player; a real idiot — six 
foot five to his eyebrows and nothing above.” 

Peterborough shook his head and continued, "I don’t have much 
going for me. I can’t impress her with chemistry; but she’s an 
English Lit major, so I showed her some of my stories. She asked 
me if I had ever sold anything, and I said no. But then I said I 
intended to write something and sell it, and she laughed. 

"That bothered me, and I thought of something. It seems that 
Lester del Rey— ” 

Rubin interposed. "Who?” 

"Lester del Rey. He’s a science fiction writer.” 

"Another one of those?” said Rubin. "Never heard of him.” 

"Well, he’s no Asimov,” admitted Peterborough, "but he’s all 
right. Anyway, the way he got started was once when he read a 
science fiction story and thought it was terrible. He said to his 
girl, 'Hell, I can write something better than that,’ and she said, 'I 
dare you,’ and he did and sold it. 

"So when this girl laughed, I said, 'I’ll bet I write one and sell 
it,’ and she said, 'I’ll bet you don’t,’ and I said, 'I’ll bet you a date 
against five dollars. If I sell the story, you go with me to a dinner 
and dance on a night of my choosing.’ And she agreed. 

"So I’ve just got to write the story now, because she said she’d 
go out with me if I wrote the story and she liked it, even if it 
didn’t sell — which may mean she likes me more than I think.” 

James Drake, who had been listening thoughtfully, brushed his 
gray stub of a mustache with one finger and said, "Or that she’s 
quite confident that you won’t even write the story.” 

"I will,” said Peterborough. 

"Then go ahead,” said Rubin. 

"There’s a catch. I can write the story, I know. I’ve got some 
good stuff I even know the ending so I can give it that backward 
look you mentioned, Mr. Rubin. What I don’t have is a motive.” 

"A motive?” said Rubin. "I thought you were writing a science 
fiction story.” 

"Yes, Mr. Rubin, but it’s a science fiction mystery, and I need a 
motive. I have the modus operandi of the killing, and the way 



of killing but I don’t know the why of the killing. 1 thought, 
though, if I came here, I could discuss it with you.” 

"You could what?” said Rubin, lifting his head. 

"Especially you, Mr. Rubin. I’ve read your mystery stories — I 
don’t read science fiction exclusively — and I think they’re great. 
You're always so good with motivation. I thought you could help 
me oui 

Rubin was breathing hard and gave every appearance of believ- 
ing that that breath was flame. He had made his dinner very 
much out of rice and salad, plus, out of sheer famishing, two help- 
ings ot couoe aux marrons: and he was in no mood for even such 
sweet reason as he was, on occasion, observed to possess. 

He said, "Let me get it straight, Joe College. You’ve made a 
bet. You're going to get a chance at a girl, or such chance as you 
can make of it, by writing a story she likes and maybe selling 
if — and now vou want to win the bet and cheat the girl by having 
me write the storv ibr you. is that the way it is?’’ 

"No, sir,” said Peteroorough, urgently, 'that's not the way it is. 
I’ll write it. I just want help with the motive.” 

"And except for that, you’ll write it,” said Rubin, "How about 
having me dictate the story to you. You can still write it. You can 
copy it out in your own handwriting.” 

"That’s not the same at all ’' 

"Yes, it is, young man; and you can stop right there. Either 
write the story yourself or tell the girl you can’t.” 

Milton Peterborough looked about helplessly. 

Trumbull said, "Damn it, Manny, why so much on the high 
horse? I’ve hear you say a million times that ideas are a dime a 
dozen; that it’s the writing that’s hard. Give him an idea, then; 
he’ll still have the hard part to do.” 

"I won’t,” said Rubin, pushing himself away from the table and 
crossing his arms. "If the rest of you have an atrophied sense of 
ethics, go ahead and give him ideas — if you know how.” 

Trumbull said, "All right, I can settle this by fiat since I’m the 
host, but I’ll throw it open to a vote. How many favor helping the 
kid if we can?” 

He held up his hand, and so did Gonzalo and Drake. 

Avalon cleared his throat a little uncertainly. "I’m afraid I’ve 
got to side with Manny. It would be cheating the girl,” he said. 

Halsted said, "As a teacher. I’ve got to disapprove of outside help 
on a test.” 

"Tie vote,” said Rubin. "What you are you going to do, Tom?” 



Trumbull said, "We haven’t all voted. Henry is a Black 
Widower and his vote will break the tie. — Henry?” 

Henry paused a brief moment. "My honorary position, sir, 
scarcely gives me the right to — ” 

"You are not an honorary Black Widower, Henry. You are a 
Black Widower. Decide!” 

Rubin said, "Remember, Henry, you are the epitome of honest 
men. Where do you stand on cheating a girl?” 

"No electioneering,” said Trumbull. "Go ahead, Henrj'.” 

Henry’s face wrinkled into a rare frown. "I have never laid 
claim to extraordinary honesty, but if I did, I might treat this as a 
special case. Juliet told Romeo, 'At lovers’ peijuries/They say Jove 
laughs.’ Might we stretch a point?” 

"I’m surprised, Henry,” said Rubin. 

Henry said, "I am perhaps swayed by the fact that I do not view 
this matter as lying between the yoimg man and the young 
woman. Rather it lies between a bookish young man and an 
athlete. We are all bookish men; and, in our time, we may each 
have lost a young woman to an athlete. I am embarrassed to say 
that I have. Surely, then — ” 

Rubin said, "Well, I haven’t. I’ve never lost a girl to — ” He 
paused a moment in sudden thought, then said in an altered tone, 
"Well, it’s irrelevant. All right, if I’m outvoted. I’m outvoted. — So 
what’s the story, Peterborough?” 

Peterborough’s face was flushed and there was a trickle of per- 
spiration at one temple. He said, "I won’t tell you any of the story 
I’ve been planning except the barest essentials of the point I need 
help on. I don’t want anything more than the minimum. I 
wouldn’t want that, even, if this didn’t mean- — so much — •” He ran 

Rubin said, with surprising quietness, "Go on. Don’t worry 
about it. We understand.” 

Peterborough said, "Thanks. I appreciate it. I’ve got two men, 
call them Murderer and Victim. I’ve worked out the way Mur- 
derer does it and how he gets caught and I won’t say a word about 
that. Murderer and Victim are both eclipse buffs.” 

Avalon interrupted, "Are you an eclipse buff, Mr. Peter- 

"Yes, sir, I am. I have friends who go to every eclipse anywhere 
in the world even if it’s only a five-percenter, but I can’t afford 
that and don’t have the time. I go to those I can reach. I’ve got a 



telescope and photographic equipment.” 

Avalon said, "Good! It helps, when one is going to talk about 
eclipses, if one knows something about them. Trying to write on a 
subject concerning which one is ignorant is a sure prescription for 

Gonzalo said, "Is the woman you’re interested in an eclipse 

"No,” said Peterborough. "I wish she were.” 

"You know,” said Gonzalo, "if she doesn’t share your interests, 
you might try finding someone who does.” 

Peterborough shook his head. "I don’t think it works that way, 
Mr. Gonzalo.” 

"It sure doesn’t,” said Trumbull. "Shut up, Mario, and let him 

Peterborough said, "Murderer and Victim are both taking eclipse 
photographs; and, against all expectations. Victim, who is the 
underdog, the bom loser, takes the better photograph; and Mur- 
derer, unable to endure this, decides to kill Victim. From there 
on, I have no trouble.” 

Rubin said, "Then you have your motive. What’s your prob- 

"The trouble is — what kind of a better photograph? An eclipse 
photograph is an eclipse photograph. Some are better than others, 
but, assuming that both photographers are competent, not that 
much better. Not a murder’s-worth better.” 

Rubin shrugged, "You can build the story in such a way as to 
make even a small difference murder-worthy — but I admit that 
would take an experienced hand. Drop the eclipse. Try something 

"I can’t. The whole business of the murder, the weapon and the 
detection depends on photography and eclipses. So it has to stay.” 

Drake said softly, "What makes it a science fiction story, young 

"I haven’t explained that, have I? — I’m trying to tell as little as 
possible about the story. For what I’m doing, I need advanced 
computers and science fictional photographic gimmickry. One of 
the two characters — I’m not sure which — takes a photograph of 
the eclipse from a stratospheric jet.” 

"In that case, why not go whole hog?” said Gonzalo. "If it’s 
going to go science-fictional . . . Look, let me tell you how I see it. 
Murderer and Victim are eclipse buffs and Murderer is the better 
man — so make it Murderer who’s on that plane, and taking the 



best eclipse photograph ever seen, using some new photographic 
gimmick he’s invented. Then have Victim, against all expectation, 
beat him out. Victim goes to the Moon and takes the eclipse 
photograph there. Murder is furious at being beaten, goes blind 
with rage and there you are.” 

Rubin said energetically, "An eclipse photo on the Moon'?” 

"Why not?” said Gonzalo, offended. "We can get to the Moon 
right now so we can certainly do it in a science fiction story. And 
there’s a vacuum on the Moon, right? There’s no air. You don’t 
have to be a scientist to know that. And you get a better picture 
without air. You get a sharper picture. Isn’t that right, Milton?” 

Peterborough said, "Yes, but — ” 

Rubin overrode him. "Mario,” he said, "listen carefully. An 
eclipse of the Sun takes place when the Moon gets exactly be- 
tween the Sun and the Earth. Observers on Earth then see the 
Sun blacked out because the opaque body of the Moon is squarely 
in front of it. We on Earth are in the Moon’s shadow. Now if 
you’re on the Moon,” his voice grew harsh, "how the Hell can you 
be in the Moon’s shadow?” 

Avalon said, "Not so fast, Manny; an eclipse is an eclipse is an 
eclipse. There is such a thing as a Lunar eclipse, when the Earth 
gets between the Sun and the Moon. The Moon is in the Earth’s 
shadow in that case and the whole Moon gets dark. 

"The way I see it, then, is that Murderer takes a beautiful 
photograph of an eclipse on Earth, with the Moon moving in front 
of the Sun. He has advanced equipment that he has invented 
himself so that no one can possibly take a better photo of the 
moon in front of the Sun. Victim, however, goes him one better by 
taking an even more impressive photograph of an eclipse on the 
Moon, where, as Mario says, there is no air, with the Earth mov- 
ing in front of the Sun.” 

Peterborough mumbled, "Not the same thing.” 

"It sure isn’t,” said Halsted, who had pushed his coffee cup to 
one side and was doing some quick figuring. "As seen from Earth, 
the Moon and the Sun have the same apparent width, almost 
exactly. Pure coincidence, of course; no astronomical necessity at 
all. In fact, eons past, the Moon was closer and appeared larger, 
and eons future, the Moon will be — Well, never mind. The fact is 
that the Earth is larger than the Moon, and from the Moon you 
see the Earth at the same distance that you see the Moon when 
you’re standing on Earth. The Earth in the Moon’s sky is there- 
fore as much larger than the Moon in appearance as it is in actu- 



ality. Do you get that?” 

"No,” said Gonzalo, flatly. 

Halsted looked annoyed. "Well, then, don’t get it. Take my word 
for it. The Earth in the Moon’s sky is about 3% as wide in ap- 
pearance as the Moon is in Earth’s sky. That means the Earth in 
the Moon’s sky is also that much bigger than the Sun, because 
the Sun looks just the same from the Moon as from the Earth.” 

"So what’s the difference?” said Gonzalo. "If the Earth is bigger, 
it gets in the way of the Sun that much better.” 

"No,” said Halsted. "The whole point about the eclipse is that 
the Moon just fits over the Sun. It hides the bright circle of the 
gleaming Sun and allows its corona — that is, its upper 
atmosphere — to shine all about the hidden Sun. The corona 
gleams out in every direction with the light of the full Moon and 
does so in beautifully delicate curves and streamers. 

"On the other hand, if you get a large body like the Earth in 
front of the Sun, it covers up the shining sphere and the corona as 
well. You don’t see anything.” 

Avalon said, "That’s assuming the Earth goes squarely in front 
of the Sun. When you see the eclipse before or after midpoint, at 
least part of the corona will stick beyond the Earth’s sphere.” 

Peterborough said, "Part isn’t the whole. It wouldn’t be the 
same thing.” 

There was a short silence; and then Drake said, "I hope you 
don’t mind if a fellow-chemist tries his hand at this, young man. 
I’m trying to picture the Earth in the sky, getting in the way of 
the Sun. And if we do that, then there’s this to consider: the 
Earth has an atmosphere and the Moon has not. 

"When the Moon moves in front of the Sun, as viewed from the 
Earth, the Moon’s surface is sharp against the Sun. When the 
Earth moves in front of the Sun, as viewed from the Moon, the 
Earth’s boundary is fuzzy and the Sun shines through Earth’s at- 
mosphere. Does that make a difference that you can use in the 

"Well,” said Peterborough, "I’ve thought of that, actually. Even 
when the Sun is completely behind the Earth, its light is re- 
fracted through the Earth’s atmosphere on every side, and a red- 
orange light penetrates it and reaches the Moon. It’s as though 
the Moon can see a sunset all around the Earth. And that’s not 
just theory. When there’s a total eclipse of the Moon, you can 
usually see the Moon as a dull brick-red circle of light. It gleams 
in Earth’s sunset atmosphere. 


"As the eclipse, as viewed from the Moon, progresses, that side 
of the atmosphere that has just passed over the Sun is brighter, 
but grows ^adually dimmer while the other side grows brighter. 
At eclipse mid-point, if you are viewing it from a part of the Moon 
which sees both Earth and Sun centered with respect to each 
other, the red-orange ring is evenly bright all the way around — 
assuming there isn’t too much in the way of clouds in Earth’s 
atmosphere at the time.” 

Drake said, "Well, for God’s sake, isn’t that a sufficiently spec- 
tacular sight for Victim to photograph? The Earth would be a 
black hole in the sky, with a thin orange rim all around. It would 

"No, sir,” said Peterborough. "It isn’t the same thing. It’s too 
dull. It would be just a red-orange ring. Once the photograph is 
taken the first time, that would be it. It wouldn’t be like the 
infinitely-varying corona.” 

Trumbull said, "Let me try! You want the corona visible all 
around, is that it, Milton?” 

"Yes, sir.” 

"Stop me if I’m wrong, but in my reading. I’ve been given to 
understand that the sky is blue because light is scattered by the 
atmosphere. On the Moon, where there is no atmosphere, the sky 
is black. The stars, which on Earth are washed out by the scat- 
tered light of our blue sky, would not be washed out in the Moon’s 
airless sky. They would be visible.” 

"Yes, though I suspect the Sun’s glare would make them hard 
to see.” 

Trumbull said, "That’s not important. All you would have to do 
is cut an opaque circle of metal and hold it up in the air at the 
proper distance from your photographic equipment in order to just 
block out the Sun’s blazing disc. You can’t do that on Earth, be- 
cause even if you blocked out the Sun, the scattered light of the 
sky obscures the corona. On the Moon, there’s no scattered light 
in the sky and the corona would shine out.” 

Peterborough said, "In theory, that’s possible. In fact, it can 
even be done on Earth on mountain tops, making use of a 
coronagraph. It still wouldn’t be the real thing, though, for it’s not 
just a matter of light scattered by the atmosphere. There’s light 
scattered and reflected by the ground. 

"The Lunar surface would be very brightly lit up and light 
would be coming in from every angle. The photographs you would 
take would not be good ones. You see, the reason the Moon does 



the good job it does here on Earth is that its shadow doesn’t just 
fall on the telescope and camera. It falls on all the surrounding 
landscape. The shadow of the Moon can, under ideal conditions, be 
160 miles wide and cover 21,000 square miles of the Earth’s sur- 
face. Usually, it’s considerably smaller than that; but generally 
it’s enough to cover the immediate landscape — that is, if it hap- 
pens to be a total eclipse.” 

Trumbull said, "A bigger opaque object, then — ” 

"It would have to be quite big and quite far away,” said Peter- 
borough, "to achieve the effect. That would be too cumbersome.” 

Halsted said, "Wait, I think I have it. You would need some- 
thing big for the purpose, all right. Suppose there were spherical 
space settlements in the Moon’s orbit. If Victim is in a spaceship 
and gets the space settlement between himself and the Sun, that 
would be exactly what he wants. He could arrange to be close 
enough to have the shadow — which, of course, is conical and nar- 
rows to a point if you get far enough away — to be just thick 
enough to enclose his entire ship. There would be no world- 
surface to reflect light, and there you are.” 

Peterborough said, uneasily, "I hadn’t thought of that. It’s pos- 

Halsted grinned, and a flush of pleasure mounted to the hair- 
line he had once had. "That’s it, then.” 

Peterborough said, "I don’t want to be troublesome, but — but if 
we introduce the space motif, it’s going to create some problems in 
the rest of the story. It’s sort of important that everything stay on 
or near the Earth and yet that there be something so startling 
and unexpected that it would — ” 

He paused and Rubin completed the sentence for him, "So 
startling and unexpected that it would drive Murderer to rage 
and vengeance.” 


"Well,” said Rubin, "since I’m the master of mystery here, I 
think I can work it out for you without leaving Earth very far 
behind, just as soon as I get some points straightened out. — You 
said that Murderer is taking the photographs from a plane. 

"Oh. That’s because the Moon’s shadow, when it falls on Earth, 
moves quickly — up to 1440 miles an hour or about 0.4 miles a 
second. If you’re standing in one place on Earth, the longest pos- 
sible duration of a total eclipse is seven minutes and then the 
shadow has moved beyond you. That’s when the Earth is as deep 



into the Moon’s shadow as it ever gets. When the Earth isn’t as 
deep in and is nearer the final point of the shadow, the total 
eclipse may last only a couple of minutes, or even only a few sec- 
onds. In fact, more than half the time, the Moon’s shadow during 
an eclipse doesn’t reach the Earth’s surface at all; and when the 
Moon is squarely in front of the Sun, the Sun overlaps it on all 
sides. That’s an 'annular eclipse’ and enough sunlight then slips 
past the Moon to wash out everything. An annular eclipse is no 
good at all.” 

"But in the airplane?” prompted Rubm. 

"In an airplane, you can race along with the shadow and make 
the total eclipse last for an hour or more even if it would only 
endure a very short time on one position on Earth. You have a 
great deal more time to take photographs and make scientific ob- 
servations. That’s not science-fictional; it’s done right now.” 

"Can you take very good pictures from the plane?” asked Rubin. 
"Does it allow a steady enough basis for photography?” 

"In my story,” said Peterborough, "I’ve got a computer guiding 
the plane, allowing for wind movements, and keeping it perfectly 
steady. That’s one of the places where the science fiction comes 

"Still, the Moon’s shadow eventually leaves the Earth’s surface 
altogether, doesn’t it?” 

"Yes, the eclipse track covers a fixed portion of the Earth’s sur- 
face, and it has an overall starting point and an overall ending 

"Exactly,” said Rubin. "Now Murderer is confident that his 
photographs taken from the stratosphere are going to include the 
best views of an eclipse ever seen, but he doesn’t count on Vic- 
tim’s having a spaceship. Don’t worry, there’s no need to leave 
Earth very far. It’s just that the spaceship follows the Moon’s 
shadow after it leaves the Earth. Victim has a still longer chance 
to take photographs, a steadier base, and no atmospheric interfer- 
ence whatever. Murderer is hoist on his own petard for he sees 
that poor simp. Victim, do exactly what he does but go him one 
better. He snaps and becomes a killer” 

Gonzalo waved both arms in the air in excitement. "Wait! Wait! 
We can do even better than that. Listen, what about that annular 
eclipse you mentioned a while ago? You said the shadow doesn’t 
reach the Earth.” 

"It doesn’t reach the surface. That’s right.” 

"How high off the surface is it?” 



"That depends. Under extreme conditions, the end point of the 
shadow could miss the Earth by hundreds of miles.” 

"Yes,” said Gonzalo, "but could that end point miss Earth by, 
say, ten miles?” 

"Oh, sure.” 

"Would it still be annular, and no good?” 

"That’s right,” said Peterborough. "The Moon would come just 
barely short of covering the Sun. There would be just the thinnest 
sliver of Sim around the Moon, and that would give enough light 
to spoil things. If you took photographs, you’d miss the promi- 
nences, the flares, and the corona.” 

"But what if you went ten miles up into the atmosphere?” said 
Gonzalo. "Then you’d see it total, wouldn’t you?” 

"If you were in the right spot, yes.” 

"There it is, then. One of those annular eclipses comes along, 
and Murderer thinks he’ll pull a fast one. He gets into his strato- 
plane, goes ten miles up to get into the point of the shadow or just 
over it, and follows it along. He’s going to make a total eclipse out 
of an annular one — and Victim, the usual loser, does the same 
thing, except he uses a spaceship and follows it out into space and 
gets better pictures. What can get old Murderer more tom up 
than having him play his ace — and getting trumped.” 

Avalon nodded his head. "Good, Mario. That is an improve- 

Rubin looked as if he had unexpectedly bitten into a lemon. "I 
hate to say it, Mario — ” 

"You don’t have to say it, Manny,” said Gonzalo. "I see it all 
over you. —There you are, kid. Write the story.” 

Peterborough said, with a sigh, "Yes, I suppose that is the best 
that can be done.” 

"You don’t sound oveijoyed,” said Gonzalo. 

"I was hoping for something more — uh — outrageous, but I don’t 
think it exists. If none of you could think up anything — ” 

"May I interrupt, sir?” said Henry. 

"Huh? Oh — no, I don’t want any more coffee, waiter,” said 
Peterborough, absently. 

"No, sir. I mean, concerning the eclipse.” 

Trumbull said, "Henry’s a member of the club, Martin. He 
broke the tie on the matter of the discussion. Remember?” 

Peterborough put a hand to his forehead. "Oh, sime. Ask 
away — uh — Henry.” 

"Actually, sir, would the photographs be that much better in a 

vacuum than in the thin air of the stratosphere? Would the dif- 
ference in quality be enough to result in murder, unless Murderer 
was a close approach to a homicidal maniac?” 

"That’s the thing,” said Peterborough, nodding. "That’s what 
bothers me. That’s why I keep saying I need a motive. These dif- 
ferences in quality of photos aren’t big enough.” 

"Let us consider, then,” said Henry, "Mr. Rubin’s dictum that in 
telling a story one should look backward.” 

"I know the ending,” said Peterborough. "I have the backward 

"I mean it in another sense — that of deliberately looking in the 
other direction, the unaccustomed direction. In an eclipse, we al- 
ways look at the Moon — just the Moon in a Lunar eclipse, and the 
Moon covering the Sun in a Solar eclipse — and that’s what we 
take photographs of What if we take a backward look at the 

"What’s to see on Earth, Henry?” asked Gonzalo. 

"When the Moon moves into the Earth’s shadow, it is always in 
the full phase and it is usually completely darkened. What hap- 
pens to the Earth when it moves into the Moon’s shadow? It cer- 
tainly doesn’t darken completely.” 



"No,” said Peterborough emphatically. "The Moon’s shadow is 
thinner and shorter than the Earth’s, and the Earth itself is 
larger than the Moon. Even when Earth passes as deeply as it can 
into the Moon’s shadow, only a tiny bit of the Earth is darkened, 
a little dot of darkness that makes up, at most, about 1/600 of the 
Earth’s circle of light.” 

"Could you see it from the Moon?” asked Henry. 

"If you knew where to look and especially if you had a good pair 
of binoculars. You would see it start small, move west to east 
across the face of the Earth, getting bigger, then smaller, and 
then vanish. Interesting, but certainly not spectacular.” 

"Not from the Moon, sir,” said Henry. "Now suppose we reverse 
the positions of the characters. It is Victim who has the airplane 
and who can get a photograph from the stratosphere. It is Mur- 
derer who intends to trump his opponent’s ace by taking a better 
photograph from space — a marginally better photograph. Suppose, 
though, that Victim, against all expectations, from his airplane 
over-trumps Murderer in his spaceship.” 

Avalon said, "How can he do that, Henry?” 

"Victim, in his plane, suddenly realizes he needn’t look at the 
Moon. He looks backward at the ground and sees the Moon’s 
shadow, racing toward him. The Moon’s shadow is just a dark dot 
when seen from the Moon; it’s just the coming of temporary night 
as seen from the Earth’s surface — but from a plane in the strato- 
sphere, it is a racing circle of darkness moving at 1440 miles an 
hour, swallowing up the land and sea — and clouds, for that 
matter — as it goes. The plane can move ahead of it, and it is no 
longer necessary to take single snapshots. A movie camera can 
produce the most dramatic film. In this way. Murderer, having 
fully expected to outdo Victim, finds that Victim has captured 
world attention even though he had only an airplane to Mur- 
derer’s spaceship.” 

Gonzalo broke into loud applause, and Trumbull said, "Right 
on!” Even Rubin smiled and nodded. 

As for Peterborough, he fired up at once saying, "Sure! And the 
approaching shadow would have a thin red rim, for at the mo- 
ment the shadow overtakes you, the red prominences cast their 
light unmasked by the Sun’s white light. That’s it, Henry! The 
backward look does it! — If I write this one properly, I don’t care 
even if it doesn’t sell. — I won’t care even” (his voice shook) "if — 
uh — she doesn’t like it and doesn’t go out with me. The story is 
more important!” 



Henry smiled gently and said, "I’m glad to hear that, sir. A 
writer should always have a proper sense of priorities.’’ 


A key drawing in Martin Gardner’s puzzle, “Tanya Tackles 
Topology” in our July 1979 issue was redrawn by the editorial staff. 
In the process, an important line was put where it shouldn’t have 
been put. In short, we goofed; and we’re sorry. Here’s the correct 




by Martin Gardner 

"It’s cocktail time, my love,” said Coimt Dracula to his wife. "Shall 
it be the usual?” 

"The usual,” said Mrs. Dracula. 

The count took from his liquor cabinet a bottle containing one 
quart of vodka and a smaller bottle containing one pint of human 
blood. He poured a small quantity of blood into the vodka, shook 
the bottle vigorously, then poured exactly the same amount back 
into the bottle of blood. Hence at the finish there was again a quart 
of liquid in the large bottle and a pint in the small bottle. 

Mrs. Dracula was sitting with her back to her husband, but she 
was watching him in a mirror on the living room wall. The count 
was following the standard Transylvanian procedure for making a 
vampire martini. 

Assume that when vodka and human blood are mixed, neither 
alters in volume. After the two operations just described, is there 
more vodka in the pint of blood than there is blood in the quart of 
vodka, or less, or are the two amounts the same? 

You may have come across this puzzle before in the form of iden- 
tical glasses, one filled with water, the other with wine. In this 
variant, however, the contents of the two containers are not alike, 
nor are we told the amount of liquid that is transferred back and 
forth. See page 61 for the solution. 


by Erwin S. Strauss 

After the Aug.-Sept. break for the WorldCon, there are a lot of 
SF con(vention)s coming up. Get out and meet your favorite au- 
thors, artists, and editors soon. For a longer, later list, and a sample 
of SF folksongs, send me an addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) 
at 10015 Greenbelt Rd. #101, Seabrook MD 20801. If you can’t 
reach a con, call me at (301) 794-7718. If you get my machine. I’ll 
call back. When writing cons, enclose a SASE. If you’re planning 
a con, there’s no charge for listing. Look for me at cons as “Filthy 
Pierre,” blowing into a black hose hooked to an accordion keyboard. 

SeaCon, For info, write: Box 428, Latham NY 12110. Or phone; (518) 783-7673 (10 a.m. to 10 
p.M. only, not collect). Con will be held in: Brighton (near London) England (if location 
omitted, same as in address) on; 23-27 Aug. The 1979 WorldCon. Guests will include: Aldiss 
& Leiber. If you don’t have reservations yet, better get in line for Laker. 

BuboniCon, (505) 821-3953. Albuquerque NM, 24-26 Aug. Orson Scott Card. A low-keyed con. 

Traditionally, a stopover point for West Coast fans driving east towards NorthAmeriCon. 
NorthAmeriCon, (502) 636-5340. Louisville KY. 30 Aug-3 Sept. Fred Pohl, Lester Del Rey and 
some guy named George Scithers. The continental con, while the WorldCon is abroad. 
PghLANGE, c/o Geraud, 1202 Benedum-Trees Bldg., Pittsburgh PA 15222. (412) 561-3057. 28-30 
Sept. Gene Wolfe. A relaxed con for fans just recovering from world and continental cons. 
OtherCon, Box 3933, College Station TX 77844. (713) 846-9782. 28-30 Sept. G. R. R. Martin. 
RoVaCon, Box 774, Christianburg VA 24073. (703) 389-9400. Roanoke VA, 28-30 Sept. 

MosCon, Box 9141, Moscow ID 83843. (208) 882-8781. 28-30 Sept. Robert A. Heinlein (health 
permitting) and Alex Schomburg. Cons are rare in this Empty Quarter of the continent. 
NonCon, Box 1740, Edmonton, Alberta T5J 2P1. (403) 469-0719. 5-7 Oct. Gordon R. Dickson and 
Eli Cohen. Two cons in ten days in the Wide Open Spaces— what’s going on up there? 

World Fantasy Con, 43 Kepler, Pawtucket Rl 02860. (401) 7224738. Providence Rl, 12-14 Oct. 

F. B. Long, S. King, M. Whelan. The fantasy fan’s WorldCon, a tradition after five years. 
Sci-Con, Box 6259, Newport News VA 23606. Hampton VA, 12-14 Oct. Kelly Freas. Note the 
change in Guest of Honor, to David Gerrold (creator of Star Trek’s tribbles). 

MileHiCon, Box 11545, Denver CO 80211. (303) 433-9774. 26-28 Oct. J. Williamson, C. Stubbs. 
AcadianaCon, 815 E. Railroad, Broussard LA 70518. (318) 837-1769. Lafayette LA, 26-28 Oct. 

David Gerrold. The emphasis will be on Cajun food, music and culture. Sounds intriguing. 
Roc'Kon, Box 9911, Little Rock AR 72219. (501) 568-0938. 26-28 Oct. Gordon R. Dickson. 
MapleCon, Box 2912 Sta. 0, Ottawa, Ont. KIP 5W9. (613) 236-5658. 28-30 Oct. Harry (The Stain- 
less Steel Rat) Harrison. Halloween weekend is a popular date, with 4 cons planned. 

NovaCon, contact SeaCon (above). Albany NY, 2-4 Nov. Wilson Arthur (Bhob) Tucker and Bob (Bosh) 
Shaw. "The first British con in the Uk” Free to holders of UK/Eire passports. 

Conclave, c/o EMU SFS, 117 Goodison, Ypsilanti Ml 48197. Detroit Ml, 24 Nov., 1979. A. E. 

(Sian) Van Vogt. Another intimate Michigan con. What’s a “Drunken Spacewoman” party? 
NorEasCon II, Box 46, MIT PO, Boston MA 02139. 29 Aug-1 Sept., 1980. Damon Knight, Kate 
Wilhelm, and Bruce Pelz. The world SF Convention for 1980, back in Boston after nine years. 


Mr. Walters tells us that he is 
five feet six and 205 pounds, has blond 
hair, and needs glasses to find his 
glasses. He was born in McCook. Nebraska, 
in 1947, spent a five-year hitch in 
the Navy, and now lives near Denver, 
Colorado, where he works for Western 
Electric as an electronics technician. 
He reports that he wrote the first draft 
of this, his first published story, in six hours; the 
rewrite took a whole week. 

For all the world, the old man looked to he a derelict. He hadn’t 
shaved in at least a week. The sweat shirt was holey and needed 
washing. The knees were gone from the jeans, and they had cuffs 
nearly three inches high. I know it surprised me when he laid the 
twenty-five hundred on Jenning’s desk. Td bet Jenning was sur- 
prised too, but you can never tell about the boss. 

Counting it out, Jenning continued to talk with the old man. 
"Yes. Yes, Mr. Courant. Do pardon my asking, but how did you 
come by this money? Nothing illegal, we trust. No slur intended, 
but your clothing led me to believe you were a bit down on your 

The old man had a poker face, or one that hadn’t had an3d;hing 
to smile about for so long that the frown was a permanent fixture. 
He replied, "I got it. That’s the amount you asked for.” 

Jenning had finished counting and had formed the bills into a 
neat pile on his desk. "Indeed, Mr. Courant, you’ve supplied us 
with the retainer. I take it we can assume you’ve funds to cover 
the total amount if we are successful.” 

"If?” For the first time in the ten minutes I’d been in the room 
with them, I saw a trace of emotion in that old face. "If ! I thought 
that ... I thought it was assured you could — you’d be able to do it.” 

"No, no; Fm sorry to say we can offer no guarantees. The fabric 
of time is a delicate, almost whimsical thing. Our success rate 
runs at nearly eight-two percent, and within the industry that is 
an enviable rate. But we just can not guarantee success. That, 
Mr. Courant, is why we do not require the total amount up front. 
The retainer covers our expenses, initial survey, *et cetera. If ^e 
are successful, the amount in total comes due. If we fail, you may 
forfeit all, or part of the retainer.” 

The old man said only, "Oh.” But his shoulders had dropped an 



inch or so, as if he’d caved in on himself. I’ve always wondered 
where Jenning gets that percentage figure from. 

"Now Mr. Courant, don’t be disillusioned. Eighty-two percent, 
Mr. Courant. Eighty-two times out of a hundred we can make the 
desired alteration. Eight hundred twenty out of a thousand. 
There’s certainly no reason to think you won’t be numbered 
among our successes.” 

"I’d thought it . . . I’d hoped it could be guaranteed.” 

"No, Mr. Courant, we do not guarantee. No reputable firm can. 
There are too many variables. Rest assured I and my highly 
trained staff will do our very best. Depending on your instruc- 
tions, we’ll make as many attempts as we can within the limits of 
the retainer. But we can not guarantee the outcome.” 

"I could get more money.” 

"Well, Mr. Courant, that might help the percentages. But until 
we get full particulars and an operative in the time stream, we’ve 
no way of knowing what we’re up against. In some cases, if we 
feel further attempts are warranted, we can take a larger re- 

The old man just sat there, looking down at a hole in the tennis 
shoes he wore. 

"And by the same token, should we be successful in the first or 
second attempt, we refund the retainer above our actual expenses. 
The remaining seventy-five hundred is still due us, and let me as- 
sure you the profit margins involved are minute indeed. After all, 
how do you place a money value on a son taken before his time?” 

God, how I hated Jenning when he went into that routine. The 
old man kept staring at his shoes, finally asking, "The retainer, 
how many times can you try on that amount?” 

"Usually two, sometimes three. Here again, it depends on condi- 
tions, and we can guarantee nothing beyond trying our best.” 

Jenning let him sit there for a few minutes. I could see the old 
man moving his toes beneath the canvas of his shoes. Toes curl- 
ing, the same motion again and again. 

Jenning finally made the push, "Mr. Courant, our time’s just 
about up. I don’t want to seem to be pressuring you into a hasty 
decision, but I’ve other clients to meet with. Operative Webster 
there has obligations too.” 

I put on my famous world-winning smile, but the old man never 
even looked at me in my corner. 

"I’ve never been pressured in this,” the old man said. "I wished. 
I hoped. I knew someday science would be able to help me. I 


began putting money away when I first heard about companies 
like yours. When I had enough, I came to you.” 

The old man looked up from his shoes then, straight at Jenning. 
"Do it. You got to succeed.” He paused, "I want to increase the 

"Yes, Mr. Courant. I do understand. Really I do. But it would 
not be ethical to take more than the standard retainer until we 
get Operative Webster briefed and into the stream. A lot depends 
on his findings.” 

The old man finally noticed me, and I tried to look very compe- 

Jenning lifted the stack of bills and neatly deposited them in 
his desk. Then he held out a hammy hand to Courant, who 
weakly took it. They shook on it. 

"Well, Mr. Courant, I’ll turn you over to Webster here. He’ll 
have need of a great deal of information from you. Some of it will 
be of a personal nature. I’d recommend you answer as forthrightly 
as you possibly can, remembering that some minute fact could 
mean the difference between our success or failure.” 

On cue I stood and crossed the well-padded carpeting to stand 
at the old man’s side. The man stared up at me, and damned if 
his eyes weren’t the saddest I’ve ever come up against. In my line, 
you can’t let yourself get too involved, or you’re headed for a 
super downer. But after looking into those eyes, I knew I’d have 
to give this one a lot of effort. 

I helped the old man up and got us headed for the door. Jenning 
was moving at his desk; and I knew as soon as we left, the money 
would be stuffed in the company safe. 

Jenning may be a hell of a scientist and a co-holder of a Nobel 
Prize for the time machine, but sometimes I really wonder how 
much of a human being he is. 

Casually I led us towards the commissary for coffee, on Jenning 
I might add. Over the cups, I began digging for the information I 
needed. Once I got the old man talking, he had a pretty sad story 
to tell. 

"We raised him good, we thought. I was twenty and Beth was 
younger, when we married. Willows, little town west side of Neb- 
raska. Lived in an old stucco house. Worked for the railroad. It’s 
been a long, long time.” 

I just sat back and listened to it, keying on the words. 

"Ronald Benjamin Courant, my little towheaded boy. Only one 
Beth and I could ever have. We really loved him. 


"I can’t explain it. Hell, all the things that have gone wrong 
with the country since then, and I’m embarrassed to say we 
brought him up to love the country. I don’t know, I was in high 
school when the second war ended, and pride swept the nation. I 
was proud to be raising a son that would ... do great things. 
Maybe even be president someday. Sounds stupid, doesn’t it?” 

"No. It sounds like any parent who loves his son.” I could have 
said more, but it’s not my part in this to point out contributing 
factors. I’m here to set things right, and that’s all. 

The old man sipped at the coffee and went on, "I can remember 
telling him it was 'his country, right or wrong.’ Oh, how I want 
him back.” 

His shoulders moved in great sobs, but there weren’t any tears. 
Cried it out long ago. I’d guess. 

"It’s hard for me to bring the memories back. I’d locked them 

"Yes, Mr. Gourant,” I soothed. "I’ve got to know, though. We 
can’t get into this without details.” 

He leaned back in the chair and crossed his arms on his chest. 

After several minutes of silence, he began again, "I— I suppose 
I’m to blame in it. If I’d been more critical of the country . . . but 
we just didn’t do things like that then. He w’as barraged by it at 
school, but we talked it out at home. 

"The day he graduated, he enlisted. I was proud. My son was to 
be a Marine. I ... I’d never served, but I was proud of him. We 
were active in Vietnam then, and I’d been brainwashed to think 
that democracy would collapse if that country fell. 

"That must sound silly to you. I mean we’re still here. I was 
nearly forty years old then, and it all made sense. 

"He died over there, near some town that I can’t even pro- 
nounce. Threw himself on a grenade. Saved another boy’s life. We 
got the telegram, the medal, the flag, and what was left of our 
son’s body.” 

He began rubbing his forehead, stroking it with his hand. 
"Beth, she took it hard. I had to be strong. It was so hard. I 
wanted to run off and cry. Our only son was dead, and there was 
something gone from our life, and it couldn’t be replaced. 

"Beth changed. And maybe I changed too. We grew apart, until 
we couldn’t stand one another anymore. I guess we still cared for 
each other, but I guess we blamed it on each other too.” 

He sighed, "We separated, and I don’t even know if she’s alive 
or what.” 



I looked at him, and felt sorry for it all. A good briefing, but I 
needed more. "Mr. Courant, I know this is difficult for you, but I’ll 
try to explain why I need this information. 

"We look at time as a river flowing capriciously between high 
and low lands. Every living being has an influence on the stream. 
Every living being is a portion of the stream. To find the boy. I’ve 
got to be able to immerse in the part of the stream that was his. 

"I hate to put you through this. I’m not a cruel man by nature. 
But I’ve got to know more. I’ve got to be able to pinpoint his flow 
if I’m to succeed.” 

He looked at me with those saddened eyes. 

"I need more information. Describe the house in Willows. Tell 
me about raising the boy. Tell me about Elizabeth, Beth. Did he 
have any girlfriends?” I moved to the coffee dispenser, and had to 
speak a little louder. 

"Parts in a school play. Pets. Buddies. His hobbies.” I pulled the 
mug from the dispenser and took it back to the table. 

"Everything and anything. I must know as much about Ron as 
you can tell me.” 

I refilled his cup from the coffee mug. 

"The more information you can give me, the better our chance 
of success.” 

He began sipping at the coffee. And I readied myself for a long 
day. My pocket recorder took it all down. 

Next morning finds me plopping myself into the chaise and let- 
ting the techs grease my head down. That grease is going to make 
me bald someday. Wonder if that qualifies for workman’s comp? 

The time machines (we’ve got two) are used on a shared basis 
by all the operatives. It’s about twenty after eight a.m., and I’m 
scheduled in for a two and a half hour time block. That ought to 
wipe out the old man’s retainer. Can’t be helped. 

I can’t really explain it, this time travel. You see things, it 
seems real, and it is real. It’s your mind that makes them hard to 
believe — that what’s like real life happened years ago. 

Viewpoints shift from person to person, and it’s a real trip see- 
ing how differently people see things; how different the colors 
seem, and textures. Or you can focus on just one person; and if 
you’ve had the training, can actually take possession of their 
body. You don’t appear physically, as in one of those sci-fi things. 
Really neat! 

Jenning does it with the machine and keeps a real close guard 

on the schematics. 

We start with a skim session. People’s memories fuzz up on 
them as time passes. What I do is take all the basics the old man 
gave me and concentrate on a person, place, or time. From there, 
the machine takes over. Meanwhile Jenning runs my report, 
transcripts of my pocket taper, through his computer to check on 
flux points. 

Flux points are what he calls them when he’s not speaking sci- 
entific to his staff, anyway. He’s hung up on flux points. Says 
they’re areas of the time stream that we can’t change. He never 
says what happens if we change one, but he’s adamant about the 
prohibition. We can’t even come close to one. 

The techs drop the bands over me and then the helmet. Then 
they leave, and it’s just me and the machine. It kind of crosses 
your eyes when they first turn it on and makes you a little dizzy. 
It’s not too bad when you’re just skimming. It’s a little worse 
when you actually drop into the stream. You can live with it. 

Skimming’s like inner-tubing, in some ways. You float with the 
stream and just try to get a feeling for where would be the best 
place to try to influence the stream. 

Whooee, there it goes. They’ve turned it on. In another second 
or so I’ll. Uh, I’ll . . . 

I see . . . 

A family, it is. A young man and woman, on a porch swing. 
Swinging back and forth. There’s a boy, small and well-scrubbed 
in a sailor suit, between his parents. Back and forth they go. 

A summer evening, and I can smell lilacs there. And I can hear 
a river softly near. Crickets and a bird calling from somewhere. 

Street sounds, but small town. A game of baseball in the street, 
beneath street lights. A dog barking. Other things. Pleasant, 
peaceful things. 

No, not here. Even if it would change the outcome, I don’t think 
I’d want to change this. I leave it behind, and drift on. 

The boy’s older here, in this eddy. High school baseball team. 
Blond, well-tanned, well-built boy. A grounder to third, where he 
plays. He runs up on it rapidly, fielding it like a professional, and 
throws wide to first. Embarassment and anger. Got to do better 
than that. Folks and Mary Lou watching. Got to do better. 

I sense something here. The hard round ball, grenade-like. This 
might be the place to try. Can’t be sure. Can’t know until I’ve 
seen it all. Can’t decide until then. On, and down stream just a 


She’s pretty in her way. Black hair. Glasses. Mary Lou then. 
Young bosom, not as big as she’ll be in a year or two. It’s night, 
and the porch light reflects off newly fallen snow. Senior or 
junior prom. He wants her. 

Damn, I’m losing this to the current. Something happened here 
that shoved him onward, and I can’t buck the flow. I don’t know 
how useful this will be, but I’ll almost have to try here. He wants 
her, and if I can get them married . . . Well, a married Marine 
would probably avoid Vietnam. 

It’s gone. The current moves, and I move with it. 

San Diego, warm town. Boot camp. DI’s. Serial nmnber, must 
be memorized. Cadence counts, obscene and ludicrous, obscenely 
ludicrous. Short, tanned Mex. Sergeant Sanchez. "You bunch a 
squirrels. What you doing playing in my sand?” 

Obstacle course. Oh God, the obstacle course. Just can’t make 
it. Got to! Have to try. Pride in self. Pride in country. Got to try. 

Relief. Over with. For real orders. Nam. Camranh Bay, and 
farther in. More training. God, don’t want to die, for sure. But 
want to go, want to serve. 

Leave. Folks. How proud they are of me. How proud! 

The current’s very strong here, and the events are passing 
rapidly. I see Mary Lou, but there are no clues to that mystery. 
Sergeant Sanchez is an ally. They’re definitely worth a try. 

It rages now, and I feel the humid heat of summer. Leaves, 
broad and tangled growths. Shots, and the squad leader goes 
down. Blood on my hands. Oh God oh God he’s dead. He’s dead in 
my arms. More shots. They’re coming. Run. Run! 

Hard to breathe. Hard to keep going. More shots. I see leaves 
dancing to bullets. Hide. Cover. Mortar crater. Me and Tommy. 
Down low. Tommy’s hit. Shots crashing above. Me and Tommy. 
God. God! 

It rolls slowly into the crater and lies there. Nearly round and 
designed to fragment. Grenade. Death. Save Tommy. I jump on it. 
No. Lord no. What have I done? No. No! 

I scream, and feel the pieces bursting in my belly. And then the 
blackness. The terminus. 

The current carries me on, but there is nothing but the black- 
ness. Minutes of this darkness pass before the techs raise the 
helmet and remove the bands. I wipe sweat from my face and blink 
to wash the sting from my eyes. 

Thirty minutes have passed. Well-spent, really. More detail 
than the old man gave, and I’m smiling because I know the boy 


didn’t throw himself on the grenade without regretting it. Yes, 
there’s a chance here. 

Jenning pops into the room with a pile of computer sheets. I 
give him a run-down on the skim session. He listens intently, 
periodically digging a sheet from the pile to study. I’ve seen the 
sheets before, but haven’t any idea what Jenning picks up from 
them, other than his precious flux points. 

I’m finished, but Jenning’s still working over the sheets. 

He wants to know, "What’s your approach plan?” 

"Well, I figured on Mary Lou. They were in love at first. If I can 
get them together, I might be able to keep him from enlisting.” 

"Yeah, that sounds good. Give any thought to the baseball bit?” 

"Sure, but I’m hesitant to get involved there. Have to teach a 
natural fielder to run away from the ball, because one day it 
turns into a grenade. No, take too much time.” 

"Good point. How about the DI, Sergeant what’s-his-name?” 

"Yeah, I figured there for sure. A lot of variables there, but feel 
it’s best procedurally to keep him out of the Marines if I can.” 

"Uh-huh.” He’s flipping through the sheets rapidly now. 

"Mr. Jenning?” 


"Think it would be worthwhile to skim some more, try to eddy 
in on the Viet who threw the grenade? Maybe try to influence 
him a bit?” 

"Uhm, don’t know. You said the boy reflexed on the grenade?” 

"Yes sir, pure reaction. If he’d had a chance to think about it, 
he’d have run.” 

"That’s in our favor.” 

"Yes, it sure is.” 

"I don’t know, Webster. Flux density was pretty high through- 
out the latter parts of the Vietnam thing. We’ve no way to find 
out much about the Viet who tossed the grenade. Skimming him 
would probably be a waste of effort. Besides, without a name and 
particulars I can’t work up a computer simulation on it.” 

"Okay, we’ll drop that.” 

He anticipates me, "And no, we can’t do away with the Vietnam 
war. That’s a prominent flux point, a real standout.” 

I could have figured that out. Jenning can get under your skin 
at times. 

"Any reason why you don’t want to try the terminus first?” 

"Yeah, there is,” I tell him. "I’m not sure I could get him far 
enough away from the grenade to get him back whole. Your 


charts should have ...” 

"My charts, Webster, deal with events and not any single per- 
son. Events, Webster, I do wish you’d remember that.” 

"Yes sir.” I need the job. "I’m sorry.” 

"Sometimes you operatives act as if I’m trying to run the whole 
thing. That’s not true. I give you people quite a bit of leeway in 
how you handle things.” 

Better be ready to explain when you fail to get a job done the 
way he wants it. 

"My concerns have always been to avoid upsetting the apple 
cart, if you will. It can be tilted, but only so far. Flux points, 
Webster, are what matter.” 

I can see right now he’s headed for another lecture, and I’m not 
willing to stand around and listen to it. Not on the old man’s 
time. Not even on my own time. 

"If I can get him involved with Mary Lou,” I’m changing the 
subject, "I stand a good chance to succeed.” 

"Yes, makes sense.” 

"Then Sanchez.” 

"The sergeant. All right, if you’ve time. I rather doubt that Mr. 
Courant could really afford to increase the retainer.” 

"And then the terminus.” 

"Sounds good. You’ve about an hour fifty left. Good swimming.” 

I watch him gather up the printouts and leave. Yeah, he makes 
me a little sick too. 

The techs are standing by, and in a couple of minutes. I’m 
tucked back into the machine. I watch them leave. Never thought 
about it, but what in the hell do they do for the hour fifty I’m tied 
in the chaise? 

Now to recall Mary Lou, you sexy young thing you. Black hair, 
perky face. Glasses, you don’t see them much anymore. Teenage 
girl. Young. Just beginning to know what being a woman’s all 
about. Heck of a boy friend in Ron Courant. He plays baseball. 
Star of the team. 

Damn it, the machine’s hitting me in the stomach. I should 
have had something to eat for breakfast, but too worked up. 

Feeling the stream now, and need more specifics. Well, let’s see. 
Boy and girl. Had to be a car. Had to be a drive-in movie some- 
time. Ok, Mary Lou. I’ve got you. Yeah, and the car too. Oh rats, 
it’s a Volkswagen. 

Have to get Mary Lou in the back seat, both figuratively and 
literally. Need to move her karma around a bit. Stuff it someplace 



out of the way for a little while. Glove box is a good place, Push- 
ing karmas around is not too hard, not after working for Jenning 
a while. 

Settle in now. Kind of kinky being in a young thing’s body. I’m 
always tempted to sneak off and play with herself Must perse- 
vere, greater things at stake here than my own perversions. 

There, then. In and settled. He’s in the driver’s seat, and rub- 
bing my neck with his hand. That does feel good. Both were half- 
heartedly watching a B movie, and now only he is. Well, it’s 
turn-on time. 

"Ron,” I say. From the way he jumps. I’ll have to change the 
voice a bit. "What’d you jump for?” 

"Uh, you sounded funny. Almost like a man, or something.” 

"Oh. I thought you’d noticed I was a girl by now.” 

"Heck, Mary Lou, I’d noticed that a long time ago.” He gestures 
with his hand and knocks the speaker off the window. In trying to 
pick it up off the floor, he whumps his head on the steering wheel 
and the horn sticks. I’m beginning to doubt Mary Lou’s taste in 
boys. I certainly was never this inept. The ineptness tells me 
much about their relationship. 

Getting back in after pulling the horn wires for him, I tell him, 
"Well, that’s taken care of for a while.” I rub her hands together. 

"God, that was embarrassing,” he says. 

I say, "We’d be more comfortable in the back seat.” 

"Uh, well. Sure. I guess. If you want.” 

"I want.” And I lick my lips. And I smile a wicked smile. 

"Uh, gee. Maybe we’d better stay up here. The bug’s got such 
small windows. It’d be hard to see the movie back there.” 

"I know,” I pant, and glom on to his arm. "Ron, dear Ron.” I’ve 
maneuvered close by this time, very close. I’ve managed to press 
certain parts of Mary Lou tight up against him. And judging by 
the way he’s breathing, it has been noted. The pain is killing me. 

I’ve decided that the shifter and emergency brake of a Volks- 
wagen are in a very poor place. There’s an imperative about the 
back seat now. I coyly suggest it again, "Let’s get in the back 

"Uh, okay.” 

We move to the back seat. 

A few more amenities. A kiss. Another, a little wetter. One 
downright sloppy one. A few selected nibbles on the ear. Every- 
thing I’ve always wanted a gal to do, but was afraid to ask. 

"Mary Lou, uh. 


"Mary Lou? 

"Mary Lou! 

"We can’t do this here, Mary Lou. 

"Someone will see. 

"Mary Lou! 

"You can’t do this in the back seat of a Beetle.” 

I reply, "Oh, I know a way.” 

"Mary Lou. 

"Mary Lou! 

"Mary Lou!!” 

Something’s gone very wrong. Ron’s climbing out of the car, try- 
ing to get his pants zippered back up again. He’s . . . he’s walking 
to the exit. What in the hell? 

Mary Lou’s essence is rattling around in the glove box. I shut 
her up and close her blouse. I need to figure out what went 
wrong. I screwed this up someway. But I’m damned if I know 
how. Nothing I’d picked up on Ron made him out to be homosex- 
ual. I may have pushed a little hard, but I’m under time pressure. 
Maybe I better let Mary Lou have her body back, and skim her 
way a while. 

I interchange and begin the drifting. I pass some of my recol- 
lections her way, but nothing she doesn’t need to know about to- 
night. She’s crying now. She’s hurt, "All right for you, Ron. I don’t 
need you.” She yells after the departing figure, "I don’t need you. 
I don’t want you.” 

Rejected, hurt, confused by her own forwardness tonight, she 
drives home and cries herself to sleep. A few lonely days. A few 
futile attempts to talk to Ron. Then she (and I) begin to hear the 
rumors. Ron’s got a big mouth, I learn. A date now and then, but 
never with goody-goody, big-mouth Ron. So what, don’t need him. 
Other friends. Others. 

I figure it out, eventually, as the succession of others begins 
flowing rapidly past. And that, gentle folks, is how I gave Mary 
Lou her bad reputation. 

You’re a puke, Ron, and so am I. I’ve got to help you, even if 
I’ve lost a little of my drive. I surface, throwing the helmet and 
bands off. 

Nine-forty and buckled in place. I crammed the breakfast down, 
and I’m beginning to get a headache. 

Okay. Okay, get going. Only got an hour left. Sanchez. Got 
some vivid recollections of the DI. Mean. Vocabulary that’s bad, 


even for a Marine. Clink, didn’t feel a thing when they turned it 
on. Maybe these headaches do have a use after all. 

It’s a large foxhole, and Ron and Tommy are there leaning on 
their shovels. Sarge’s yelling at them. Not much karma to move 
aside, appears DFs don’t have much. Not charitable, really. San- 
chez cares in his own way. Maybe, maybe I won’t have to — but no. 
He has something else in mind. What I need is more along this 
line. Yes, yes! 

"Shit! What you squirrels doing leaning on them shovels? I 
don’t remember inviting you to lean on them shovels. What the 
hell you doing in my hole?” 

The two fatigued Marines, both meanings, scramble out of the 
hole. Sanchez steps into the hole. I make him look around. 

"You like this hole?” 

"Yes sir.” 

"Did I just hear a bee belch, or was you two talking at me?” 

"Yes sir!” 

"You know, I like this hole too. It’s a nice hole. You know what 
I don’t like? I don’t like looking up at you two squirrels. I don’t 
like that at all. You two squirrels get back down in this hole.” 

"Ah, shit,” I say. "Now look what you done. You got my hole all 
crowded. I’m going to have to get out. You want me to get out?” I 
quickly raise his finger and glare at the pair. "You better not say 
a damn thing, you know what’s good for you.” I climb out. 

I look down at the two and ask, "Hey you, blondy. Yes, you. 
You like him?” I point from Ron to Tommy. 

"Yes sir,” says Ron. 

"And you, you like him?” 

"Yes sir,” says Tommy. 

"You two buddies?” 

"Yes sir.” 

"Uh, you two don’t love each other, do you?” 

"No sir!” They grin a little, but not for long. 

"Hokay. I going to play a game with you. You like to play 

"Yes sir.” 

"Good, cause it’s a good game.” I take off the sergeant’s hat. 
"You like my hat?” 

"Yes sir.” 

"Good. I like my hat too. It’s a nice hat.” I toss it into the hole. 
"Hokay, now we going to play. Is that my hat, what in your 


"No sir.” 

"Hey, you guys getting smart. Hokay, if that ain’t my hat, what 
it is?” 

They look at one another, not knowing what to say. 

I scream, "Shit, that’s a hand grenade. What you going to do, 
blondy? What you going to do!” 

Ron’s body stammers, then he stoops, grabs, and throws the hat 
out of the hole. I explode, jumping up and down, "What in hell 
you mean, throwing my hat around. You get my hat, and you bet- 
ter do it quick.” 

Ron rapidly retrieves my hat. I look it over, then toss it back in 
the hole. "Hey, blondy; you play baseball?” 

"Yes sir.” 

"I knew it. You think you can toss a live grenade around like 
John Wayne? You hold up you right arm.” 

Ron raises his right arm. 

"You better kiss you arm so long, you going to play John 

"You going try again, blondy.” Ron starts to move toward the 
hat. "Ah,” I say. "You ain’t thinking to jump on my hat?” 

"Uh, no sir.” 

"Oh, that’s good. Cause I make you sorry you ever born, you 
done that. So what you going to do?” 

Ron throws himself out of the hole. I growl at Tommy, who then 
repeats Ron’s action. 

I beam, "Now you guys making me proud to be a Marines.” I 
saunter down into the hole and pick up the hat. Dusting it off, I 
casually walk on top of Ron on my way out. Well, he deserved it. 

I put my worst scowl on and yell at them, "And damn you, you 
better remember what I learn you today!” 

I storm away and give Sanchez back his body. I’ll let him figure 
out how the hat got dusty. 

Submerged in the stream, it’s hard to keep track of time, but 
I’m afraid my time with the machine’s passing fast. I surface, 
then skim. Drifting into the steamy paddies, into the jumbled 

Again the squad leader dies in his arms. Again the bullets flip- 
ping into the trees. Damn it. God damn it! He jumped on the 
grenade again. 

Almost before he’s dead, the techs pull the bands. I don’t want 
it to end like this. I can’t let it end like this. 

Jenning’s there and tells me there’s only a half hour left. I give 


him an edited version of events. What he don’t know shouldn’t 
hurt me. 

He says, "In the short time we’ve got left, we’ve no choice but to 
concentrate on the terminus.’’ He shakes his head, "I’ve never fig- 
ured out why in some cases it’s so easy to swing the stream. In 
others, it’s like trying to — count the stars.” 

Yeah, it is. You could probably do it, but the effort and time 
involved would make it hardly worthwhile. His comment also 
serves to put the limit on our efforts for the old man. Succeed or 
fail. I’ve got just a half hour to do it in. 

Someplace Jenning keeps a record. And that record carries the 
time blocks available after I finish, all filled. He runs things 
close, with an efficiency that’s hard to comprehend at times. It’s 
as if he really didn’t care about the people. Hard to understand 
the boss. I guess it’s just a thing that his position has caused, like 
an ulcer. 

I move back to the chaise, and the techs hook me back in. Like 
an ulcer. 

I’ve sort of mucked this thing up, and I’m not happy about that. 
I knew I was too involved in this. I should have asked Jenning to 
get another op on this one. Hell, I’ve got to try to straighten this 
out. Dumping this on another op now would be a really rotten 
thing to do. 

And I’ll have to explain it to Mr. Courant. Jenning will see to 

Ok. Focus on Ron. Focus on the minutes. Pick him up with the 
squad leader in his arms. Control. Yes, control. Self Preserve the 

Fight him. Fight it. 

Self, the all important I. Running. Running out of breath. It’s 
hard to breathe. See the leaves moving. Not the breeze. They’re 
all around you. Run. Run! 

Yes, run past the mortar crater. No place to hide there. No 
place at all. Run. 

God. God oh God! The pain burning into my back as the bullets 
enter. I’m hit. I’m hit! Down into the blackness. 

No. Damn it, no! Surface and do it again. 

One attempt made. One failure. Back to the squad leader in my 

Fear. He’s dead. They come. Protect yourself Protect yourself. 
Yes, run. 

Running out of breath. Leaves moved by bullets. Hard to 

breathe. Hard to breathe. 

Mortar crater. Yes, there. But don’t stay. In and out. Trap 
there. In and out. Tommy in behind. Sergeant Sanchez. Remember 
him. Remember his hat. Yes, the hat. 

What’s that? Round, hard, deadly. Grenade. Get out. Protect 
yourself. Tommy. Forget Tommy. Tommy’s hit! Forget Tommy. No. 
No! Throws self on Tommy. The grenade goes off, tearing into 
him. Blackness. 

I must rest. 

Drift in that blackness for a time. How much time left? How 

Back again, to the squad leader. Save myself until Ron needs 
me. Let events go free. Running. Running. 

Hard to breathe. Hard to breathe. Safety in the mortar crater. 
Tommy in behind. Self! 

Tommy’s hit. 

Self. Grenade. Get out. Self. 

Jump upward and out. The explosion and the pain as the frag- 
ments tear into the legs. Grayness. Grayness, and I rejoice. 

His mind numb, I can use his eyes. Turn his head to see his 
mangled legs. I feel the pain that he has escaped from. He will 
not be whole, but he will live. He will live. 

I see other Marines coming. I see the medic. My legs hurt, and I 
flee from Ron’s body and from the stream. I cross to the familiar 
flow that is my own, and I surface in a cascade of bubbles. 

I’m back in Jenning’s office, waiting for him to approve my 
wrap-up. Hell, I know we’re a cut-throat organization. Jenning 
there, he’s just enough of a bastard to make it all work. 

And really, would ten thousand have been too much to charge 
for getting the old man’s son back? How much would you pay 
under similar circumstances? 

You read about the time machines; and everyone thinks about 
being able to save a Kennedy or getting to know, really know, a 
Lincoln. In reality, the common Joe, the common Ron, is just as 
worthwhile. And Jenning and his flux points wouldn’t let you 
save a Kennedy or know a Lincoln. 

Oh, would you look at the scowl forming on Jenning’s face. 
Another one of his "Don’t let’s overdo it, Webster. I mean effort, 
yes, but this overachieving . . .’’ lectures. 

I don’t know. Can you blame Jenning? The minute I influenced 
the boy off the grenade, we not only lost the money, because the 


old man never gave it to us, but now I’ve got to convince Jenning 
that there was an old man in the first place. 

Only time the company takes any money in is when we fail. 
And then it’s only the retainer. 

I figured as much. Jennings making me read my report again. 
How should I know who I’m talking about? I never met any old 

Damn, it sure gets confusing around here at times. 

(from page 42) 

If you tried to crack this puzzle by algebra, using exact quantities, 
you probably got into a hopeless muddle. There is, however, a ri- 
diculously simple proof that the amount of blood in the vodka must 
exactly equal the amount of vodka in the blood. 

We are told that at the finish there was, as before, one quart of 
liquid in the large bottle, one pint in the small bottle. Consider the 
large bottle. It is missing an x amount of vodka. Since it remains 
a quart, this missing amount must have been replaced by an x 
amoimt of blood! Of coimse the same reasoning applies to the small 
bottle. If it is missing an x amount of blood, and remains a pint, the 
missing blood must be replaced by an x amount of vodka. In fact, 
it doesn’t matter in the least how many times varying amounts of 
liquid are transferred back and forth so long as at the finish there 
is a quart in one bottle and a pint in the other. Even the bottle sizes 
are irrelevant. The vodka in the blood must equal the blood in the 

Can you invent a simple card trick based on the same curious 
principle? See page 98 for such a trick. 




by Milton A. Rothman 

Dr. Rothman, after inventing the 
science fiction convention, has been 
writing SF and doing science for many 
years. His son, Tony Rothman, also 
does both. Here, a promised discussion 
of Dr. Rothman’s recent work. 

1. An Enigma Lurks Below. 

Deep within the fundamentals of physics lies a mystery — a 
mystery so profound that it has defied solution since its presence 
was first recognized over fifty years ago. The mystery has to do 
with the basic nature of the fundamental particles that make up 
matter and energy — the electrons, the protons, the mesons, the 
quarks — and the particle that is the subject of interest in this ar- 
ticle: the photon. 

During the past half-century physicists have come to think of 
such particles as consisting of "wave packets,” meaning that they 
sometimes behave like waves and sometimes like hard little par- 
ticles. This image helps us visualize what kind of beasties these 
entities are. However, it is most important to realize that the con- 
cept of "wave packet” is strictly a mental model. Whenever we 
lose sight of that fact, then we get into all sorts of trouble, and 
these troubles are both the cause and the result of the mystery. 

The science that describes how matter behaves according to this 
wave packet description is called quantum mechanics, invented by 
Erwin Schroedinger and Werner Heisenberg independently in 
1925. Quantum mechanics is the most successful theory in the 
history of science. By its mathematical equations we can describe 
the structure of atoms and molecules, as well as the collisions be- 
tween atoms, nuclei, and elementary particles. This theory has 
been so well v rified by experiment that there is no doubting its 
validity. It is the way of describing matter at the nuclear, atomic, 
and molecular level. 

Because of this success it is easy to fall into the habit of think- 
ing that quantum mechanics explains everything there is to ex- 
plain. And so, for over twenty years I went along blithely believ- 


ing that I really understood the meaning of this theory. Suddenly, 
a few years ago, while thinking about a simple experiment in op- 
tics, I was struck by an enormous revelation. I realized that if I 
believed what quantum theory predicted about the results of this 
experiment, then these results simply could not be understood in 
terms of any kind of concept that I was familiar with. While the 
textbooks on quantum theory emphasize that we should not try to 
understand the structure of elementary particles in terms of clas- 
sical concepts, this new experiment I was considering gave such 
utterly paradoxical results that I could no longer swallow the 
conventional interpretations given by the textbooks for such 
phenomena. I suffered, literally, a loss of faith. 

At the time the idea for the experiment entered my mind, I had 
never heard of its actually being done by anyone. So far it was 
just a thought experiment, and for a breathless moment I won- 
dered if I had conceived an original idea. Nevertheless, prudence 
required a search of the literature, and after a few hours of dig- 
ging through Physics Abstracts I found that this experiment had 
indeed been performed during the 1950’s by a group in Budapest, 
Hungary. The leader of this group was a man named L. Janossy, 
a well-known figure in cosmic-ray research. Their paper, published 
in a 1957 Acta Physica Hungarica (fortunately in English), described 
precisely the experiment I had visualized. 

The strange part of this affair is that in the 20 years since the 
publication of the Hungarian paper there has been, to my knowl- 
edge, no mention of this experiment in any American journal or 
textbook, despite what I consider to be its fundamental impor- 
tance. This may be due to two reasons. First, the Janossy paper 
was published in a Hungarian journal that not many people over 
here read. Second, the average textbook writer does not like to 
bring up topics that are not fully understood. This might confuse 
the reader. (As well as the writer.) 

It’s one thing to read about an experiment. It’s another thing to 
do it and see the results with your own eyes. The experiment I 
had been thinking about was so incomprehensible that I simply 
had to do it for myself, even though it had already been done and 
published. Furthermore, it was the kind of thing that could be set 
up in a small college laboratory, using equipment on hand, for the 
purpose of edifying and mystifying the students. 

So I did the experiment. I got the expected results. When it was 
all over I understood no more than I had understood originally. 
But now I knew what it was that I did not understand. That was a 


step forward. 

2. What is Light? 

The mystery of this experiment goes back to the 17th century, 
when scientists first began making serious conjectures as to the 
nature of light. At that time, Christian Huygens was the leading 
champion of the notion that light is carried through space by 
some kind of wave motion. Isaac Newton, on the other hand, be- 
lieved light to consist of tiny particles, or corpuscles, traveling 
with great speed from the source to the receiver. 

Since there was no evidence of any kind to verify either of these 
hypotheses, the noise from the argumentation was doubly loud. It 
was not until 1803 that physical evidence tilted the weight of the 
argument in favor of the wave theory. In that year the English 
physicist and physician Thomas Young sent a beam of light 
through a pair of very narrow parallel slits. Projected on a screen 
beyond the slits, the image of the light appeared in the form of 
alternating bright and dark bands. 

The simplest way to explain such a result is by a wave model of 
light. Each slit acts like an individual source of waves. Then at 
some points on the screen the wave crests from one slit come to- 
gether with the crests from the other slit, producing constructive 
interference. This results in a bright streak, or fringe. At points 
in between, the crests from one slit meet the troughs from the 
other slit, and the result is cancellation of the two waves — a dark 
fringe. The alternating bright and dark fringes are seen to be the 
result of interference between the waves spreading out from the 
two slits. 

The Young two-slit interference experiment gave what most 
people considered conclusive proof that light must be a wave 
phenomenon. And, in fact, with this experiment it became a sim- 
ple matter to measure the wavelengths of these waves. If you can 
measure a wavelength, there surely must be a wave. 

By the end of the 19th century these light waves had become 
identified as electromagnetic waves — the same as radio waves, 
but with shorter wavelengths. 

However — and this is where the strangeness starts coming 
in— just as people started believing that light was really a wave 
phenomenon, evidence from another quarter began to show that 
Newton was right all along — that light consisted of corpuscles. 
The most obvious piece of evidence was the photoelectric effect — 
the thing that operates every photocell, TV camera, photographic 



film, etc. The photoelectric effect (discovered in 1888) is what 
happens when a beam of light hits a piece of matter and knocks 
electrons out of that matter. The thing that baffled the early in- 
vestigators was the fact that the shorter the wavelength of the 
light, the more energy the ejected electrons had. There was no 
way for classical electromagnetic theory to explain this observa- 

The situation was clear: the existing theory could not explain 
the experiments; therefore the theory had to be changed. It was as 
though the turning of the century was a trigger. In 1900 the 
Grerman physicist Max Planck introduced a new concept — the idea 
that electromagnetic energy was emitted by matter in little bun- 
dles, or quanta, rather than in continuous wave trains. Planck 
devised this notion to explain a mystery about the emission of 
light from hot solids. In 1905 Albert Einstein perceived that the 
same idea could explain the curious results of the photoelectric ef- 
fect, which, you notice, deals with the absorption of light by mat- 
ter. Emission and absorption — the beginning and end of a light 

Einstein’s explanation was simplicity itself, and for this he was 
awarded the Nobel Prize, for it required a totally new way of per- 
ceiving the nature of light. First he assumed (together with 
Planck) that the energy of the light wave appears in discrete 
bunches (or quanta), and that the energy of each quantum is 
proportional to the frequency of the wave. Second, he assumed 
that when a quantum of light is absorbed by an atom, the quan- 
tum disappears and all of its energy is given to an electron, which 
is then knocked out of the atom. Thus, by measuring the energy 
of the electron, you are measuring the energy of the light quan- 

Notice that this description uses the concept of wave frequency, 
but also speaks of the energy being collected in one small lump. 
For the first time a single object is described as having the prop- 
erties of waves and particles simultaneously. 

In 1923, Arthur Holly Compton discovered that a high-energy 
x-ray quantum could actually collide with an electron and recoil 
from it— just like one billiard ball bouncing from another. This 
was really distinct evidence that a quantum of light behaved just 
like any other particle, the major difference being that it had no 
"rest-mass” and could only travel at the speed of light. Compton 
gave the name "photon” to this particle of light, and this is the 
name that we use at the present time. 



3. Waves and Particles. 

Now the idea of a photon (or an electron or a proton) being both 
a particle and a wave was very unsettling when first introduced, 
and is still hard to swallow, because it makes use of two opposite 
concepts at one time. A particle is located at one point in space, 
while a wave is spread out in space. One way of getting around 
the dilemma is to think of the photon as being a wave packet — 
something that travels through space in the form of a localized 
bunch of waves, spread out to a certain extent. Yet, when it 
interacts with matter so that the photon is detected, then all the 
energy appears at a single point. (Fig. 1) That makes it seem like 
a particle. 

Such a picture makes a nice model — and you can get along with 
it very well for most purposes. But there are certain experiments 
that make it very hard to comprehend. The first of these experi- 
ments was done in 1908 by an enterprising graduate student at 
Cambridge University named G.I. Taylor. The experiment began 
when Taylor wonder^ what would happen if you tried to produce 
an interference pattern with light so feeble that only one photon 
at a time went through the apparatus. Would you still get light 
and dark fringes? 

Instead of repeating Young’s double-slit experiment, Taylor 
simply photographed the shadow of a needle, "the source of light 
being a narrow slit placed in front of a gas flame. The intensity of 
the light was reduced by means of smoked glass screens.” It had 

FIG. 1. The wave packet of a photon is spread out over some region 
of space. But when it knocks an electron out of an atom 
so that it is detected, all its energy appears at one point. 



long been known that the shadow of a sharp edge would exhibit 
interference fringes when projected onto a screen or photographic 
plate. In Taylor’s crucial experiment; he reduced the intensity of 
the light to such an extent that it required an exposure of three 
months to obtain a blackening of the photographic plate. It can be 
estimated that under these conditions about one million photons 
per second were hitting each square centimeter of the photo- 
graphic plate. 

\^ile this sounds like a lot, it represents only one photon at a 
time, since each photon takes about a hundredth of a microsecond 
to land on the plate. In Taylor’s experiment, the average time 
between photons was about one microsecond. Thus, there was lit- 
tle chance of two photons overlapping. 

Now visualize what happens in this experiment. A photon 
dashes past the edge of the needle and is deflected from its path. 
It lands somewhere on the photographic film and blackens a grain 
of silver. Another photon comes along later and does the same 
thing, but lands somewhere else. After several billion photons 
have gone by, the film is developed, and voila: you behold an in- 
terference pattern with light and dark stripes. Clearly the 
photons have chosen to concentrate in certain areas, while avoid- 
ing others. 

To understand how this happens, we will find it easier to look 
at the Young two-slit experiment rather than Taylor’s experi- 
ment, since interference from a single edge is somewhat compli- 
cated to describe. It’s much easier to start with a pair of slits, 
which behave like a simple pair of light sources. If photons were 
nothing but tiny particles, then sending a beam of them through 
a pair of narrow slits would result in the pattern shown in Fig. 
2-a. However, what we actually see is the pattern shown in Fig. 
2-b. This pattern is exactly what we expect from the constructive 
and destructive interference of crests and troughs belonging to the 
wave trains originating at the two slits (Fig. 2-c). 

Two important facts stand out. First, the pattern is completely 
independent of the intensity of the light. You get the same picture 
whether you use bright light containing billions of photons per 
second, or weak light containing one photon per second. Second, 
each photon only blackens one grain of film. You don’t get a 
whole interference pattern from a single photon. It is the cumula- 
tive effect of billions of photons that produces an interference pat- 

A very strange thing is this: when a single photon goes through 

FIG. 2. Light coming from the left passes through a pair of slits 
in a screen. If the light consisted of tiny particles, you 
would see a pair of bright stripes on the screen beyond, (a) 
(Dark stripes on a photographic negative.) Fig. (b) shows 
the actual image seen: a series of alternating light and dark 
fringes. Fig. (c) shows how such fringes are explained 
by picturing a set of circular waves starting from each slit. 
Where the two sets of waves intersect is found the max imum 
light intensity. 



the two slits, you can’t tell where it goes while it is in transit. 
You don’t know which slit it went through, and you can’t predict 
ahead of time where on the film it is going to darken a silver 
grain. You can only tell where it landed, after it has landed. 

The only thing you can infer from the interference pattern is 
this: the experiment behaves as though there is a wave packet 
flowing through both slits, dividing into two parts, and coming to- 
gether on the other side. Clearly, the wave packet must spread 
out over the whole width of the fringe pattern — which might be a 
matter of several centimeters. Yet, when the packet hits the film, 
all of the photon’s energy is instantly sucked up into one single 
electron, which is knocked out of its normal position in a silver 
halide molecule. 

In other words, while the photon is traveling through space its 
wave packet may be spread out over a large area, but when it is 
detected it appears at a single point in space. 

This effect is called "reduction of the wave packet.” It is within 
this reduction process that the greatest mysteries of modern 
physics lie. Two of these mysteries are immediately obvious. First, 
if you think of the photon’s energy as being spread out through 
the packet, then it is very mysterious that it can so abruptly be 
concentrated into one place. Second, it is mysterious that the posi- 
tion where the photon is detected appears to be determined en- 
tirely by chance. There seems to be no particular reason why one 
grain of silver on the film should be darkened rather than 
another. This fact results in a breakdown of the classical concept 
of "determinism.” 

Questions such as these worried a great many people during the 
1920’s when quantum theory was first being set up. It was not 
clear what one was to make of this wave packet. Just what kind 
of wave was it? What was the meaning of the random darkening 
of the film grains? The attempt to answer these questions resulted 
in the modern science of Quantum Mechanics. 

4. Quantum Theory. 

Modern quantum theory began in 1923 with the hypothesis of 
Louis de Broglie that material particles were similar to quanta of 
light in that they could be thought of as wave packets. Instead of 
being a hard, featureless ball, an electron was found to have a 
wavelength associated with it, and could make interference pat- 
terns when sent through narrow openings. Erwin Schroedinger, in 
1925, showed how this hypothesis allows you to calculate all sorts 


of wonderful things, such as the size and shape of a hydrogen 
atom, as well as the wavelengths of the light given off by the 
hydrogen atoms when the gas is heated. These wavelength calcu- 
lations were most important, for a wavelength is something that 
can be measured experimentally and compared with the theoreti- 
cal predictions. The excellent agreement between theory and ex- 
periment is what made physicists believe that this strange theory 
had some real validity to it. 

The entire theory was based on the idea that the electron or 
other particle consists of a wave packet. The mathematical symbol 
for the wave function was chosen to be psi ('k). This is the thing 
that waves. It is the mathematical quantity that obeys the wave 
equation. Yet, what does 'k represent physically? That was not 
clear at first. 

It was Max Born who came to the rescue. In 1926 he made the 
proposal that everything about quantum theory could be under- 
stood if you made the following interpretation of 'k: Take the 
quantity 'k, square it, and multiply by an element of volume in 
space. (The element of volume is a small portion of the volume 
within the wave packet.) The product of psi-squared multiplied by 
the volume element gives you the probability of finding the parti- 
cle within that particular volume you have chosen. (To be precise, 
we use the absolute value squared — | 'k | ^ — since 'k may be a com- 
plex number.) 

For example, if 'k is represented by the wave packet shown in 
Fig. 3-a, then Fig. 3-b shows |'k|^, which we call the probability 
density of the packet. The area under the curve between A and B 
represents the probability of finding the particle within the region 
of space between A and B. (The total area under the curve is de- 
fined to be unity, since the particle is certainly to be found some- 
where along the x-axis.) 

With this interpretation, we do not claim the wave packet rep- 
resents the particle smeared out all through the space covered by 
the packet. We do not think of the particle as a blob or a cloud, 
even though we may sometimes call it that in elementary writing 
to avoid going into detailed explanations such as this one. 

No. What we mean is that the wave function 'k is a probability 
wave. And what that means is that we don’t know exactly where 
the particle is within the wave packet. All we know is that if we 
put detectors at various places within the packet, the shape of the 
curve gives us the relative probability of the particle being de- 
tected at one place or another within that region of space. The de- 



tector itself may be nothing more complicated than a silver grain 
on a film. 

The important thing is that we have absolutely no way of pre- 
dicting the fate of a single particle. The curve only tells us that if 
we have a billion particles hitting the film, some will go to one 
place, some will go to another place, and at the end we will have 
a darkening of the film whose form is predicted by the shape of 
the probability curve. 

The fact that we cannot predict where a particular particle will 
land means that the wave function does not give us complete in- 
formation about the motion of individual particles. The only thing 
we can calculate from the equations are averages and expecta- 
tions. This feature of quantum mechanics comes under the head- 
ing of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. 

FIG. 3. A hypothetical wave packet, (a) shows the form of the 

^r-function, while (b) shows the square of the ^-function. 
The area under any portion of this curve represents the 
probability of finding the particle within that region of 



A somewhat analagous situation is this: imagine a thousand 
students entering college and graduating four years later. You 
know nothing about any individual student, and so you are com- 
pletely unable to predict what kind of grade point average a par- 
ticular student will have when he/she graduates. However, you 
can make a pretty good prediction of the class distribution (based 
on previous statistics). So many students will fall between 3.5 and 
4.0, so many will fall between 3.0 and 3.5, and so on. That is the 
way quantum mechanical calculations turn out. 

In the early days of quantum theory, some people really consid- 
ered the function to represent some kind of "probability wave,” 
as though probability were actually something physical, some- 
thing that could travel through space as a wave and could be 
applied to a single particle. This is the kind of thinking you use 
when you roll a die and say, "The probability of rolling a 3 is 1/6.” 
Actually, you don’t know anything at all about a single throw. 
You only know that if you make a lot of throws, about one-sixth 
of them are going to be 3’s. 

In the same way, it gradually became apparent to the theorists 
that the 'k -function really says nothing at all about the behavior 
of a single electron or photon. It merely tells you what would 
happen if you had a million particles traveling in the same beam. 
A certain number would go in one direction, a certain number 
would end up in another place, and so on. 

This was a very unsatisfying situation, philosophically speak- 
ing, to many people. Einstein was one, in particular, who disliked 
the thought that physics was completely unable to predict the 
path of a single electron. In this respect, Einstein’s position has 
often been misunderstood. Einstein did not disagree with quan- 
tum theory; as one who contributed to the early development of 
quantum concepts, he completely understood what the theory 
stated. Indeed, he was one of the leading exponents of the point of 
view that the 'k -function only gives information about large 
numbers of particles (a statistical ensemble) and tells you nothing 
about the behavior of an individual particle. He insisted that 
quantum theory was nothing more than a statistical theory. 

What disturbed Einstein was the claim made by the quantum 
theorists such as Bohr and Heisenberg that it was impossible to 
make a more exact theory, a theory that would explain in greater 
detail how the motion of individual particles was determined. In 
fact, it was a basic part of Heisenberg’s Principle of Indetermi- 
nacy that it is completely impossible to tell exactly where a parti- 


cle is going to travel once it has been launched. You can only lo- 
cate it after it has been detected and stopped. 

Einstein, on the other hand, believed that quantum theory was 
incomplete, that it did not give a total picture of what was hap- 
pening in that microscopic world within the wave packet. 

5. The Splitting of Wave Packets. 

Einstein’s doubts in these matters were made public in a fam- 
ous series of debates that he conducted with Niels Bohr at various 
scientific meetings. Einstein’s method was to pose a question 
based on a thought-experiment, and Bohr would describe what 
would happen in that hypothetical situation according to the pre- 
dictions of quantum theory. By this process, many of the mys- 
teries of quantum theory were clarified at the time this new and 
strange subject was in its infancy. 

A crucial question posed by Einstein at the Solvay Conference 
of 1927 has given rise to an entire literature of controversy, and 
is the question behind the experiment that is the subject of this 
article. Einstein’s question was this: what happens to a single 
photon when it encounters a half-silvered mirror? (A half-silvered 
mirror, remember, is a mirror with a very light reflecting coating, 
made so that some of the light is transmitted and some of the 
light is reflected. It is a common optical device used to split a 
light beam into two parts. If this beam-splitter is properly made, 
the transmitted part is equal to the reflected part in intensity.) 

This question of Einstein’s is a most diabolical one, and is clear 
evidence of the incomparable depth of his mind. 

The answer to Einstein’s question, according to quantum 
physics, is straightforward and simple: the wave packet divides 
into a transmitted wave and a reflected wave. Each of these parts 
of the packet goes off on its own journey after leaving the mirror 
(Fig. 4). 

It would appear from the diagram that two wave packets now 
exist where formerly there was one. However, do not think this 
for a moment. Remember that the energy of a photon depends on 
the frequency of the wave. If we think of the reflected and trans- 
mitted waves as being two separate photons, each part must have 
the same amount of energy as the original photon, since it has the 
same frequency. This means we end up with twice as much 
energy as we started out with. This cannot be so. 

To understand what happens we must recall the statistical in- 
terpretation of the wave function. When the wave packet splits at 


the half-silvered mirror, the amplitude of each part is reduced. So 
now we say the probability of finding the photon in the reflected 
part is 1/2 and the probability of finding the photon in the trans- 
mitted part is 1/2. (For simplicity we are assuming equal reflec- 
tion and transmission; this is not a necessity.) The two half- 
packets still make one single packet, and so the probability of find- 
ing the photon somewhere within that packet is still unity. 

But now this interpretation has an extremely important con- 
sequence: detectors placed in the paths of the two beams will de- 
tect a given photon either in the transmitted beam or in the re- 
flected beam. A given photon has to be detected in either one or 
the other beam, but not in both at once. The net result is that 
each detector will count half of the photons. 

That’s all well and good, but now another question comes to 
mind. Consider the split wave packet, with its two half-packets 




FIG. 4 

FIG. 4. When a wave packet hits a half-silvered mirror, part of 
it is transmitted through the mirror and part of it is 
reflected from the face of the mirror. 



going in different directions. Each of these half-packets is pre- 
sumably identical, and each one encounters an identical detector. 
Why is it that only one detector triggers? If one detector triggers, 
what prevents the other one from triggering at the same time? 
After all, it is being hit by an identical half-packet. 

The impact of the question is magnified if we imagine the ap- 
paratus to be very big so that the two detectors are, let us say, a 
light-year apart. In spite of this great separation the theory tells 
us that only one detector will trigger, even though both encounter 
identical half-packets. If one detector triggers, how does the dis- 
tant detector know that it must not trigger at the same time? 

An easy answer would be to say: well, the above explanation is 
all wrong, and all that happens is that half the time the photon is 
reflected and half the time it is transmitted through the mirror in 
a random sort of manner. This would explain very simply why 
only one detector or the other triggers. 


FIG. 5. A Mach-Zehnder interferometer consists of two half -silvered 
mirrors and two totally reflecting mirrors. The split beam 
goes around the two legs, and when it is brought back together 
it shows interference fringes. 



But then still another question raises its ugly head. Suppose we 
add three more mirrors to the apparatus, in such a way that the 
two light beams are brought back together at a second half- 
silvered mirror (Fig. 5). An arrangement such as this is called an 
interferometer, because when the mirrors are adjusted properly, 
an array of light and dark fringes are seen at the output of the 
device. This occurs because different rays of the two beams travel 
slightly different distances to get from the first half-silvered mir- 
ror to the second. If the difference is such that two wave crests 
come together, then a bright spot is formed; if a crest meets a 
trough, then there is a dark region. 

Interferometers have been known for a long time and have 
many practical uses: measuring lengths very precisely, measuring 
the index of refraction of gases, testing the theory of relativity, 
etc. However, at a certain instant of time in 1976, I had never 
heard of an interferometer being used with light of such low in- 
tensity that only one photon at a time went through it. This would 
be analagous to the Taylor experiment described previously, and 
by analogy one would expect the same result: interference fringes 
should be produced as a result of each individual photon interfer- 
ing with itself. 

But what does this mean? It means that a given wave packet 
really must split and go around both legs of the interferometer 
simultaneously; this is required in order to get interference. 

But if this is what happens, then you cannot say, simply, that 
the photon goes either one way or the other. The wave packet 
goes both ways at the same time. But if the wave packet goes both 
ways at once, why do we never detect the photon in both legs of 
the interferometer simultaneously? 

We have here all the elements of a paradox. 

6. The Experiment. 

It was at this point that I decided to do the experiment, because 
I had to see for myself what actually happens. The experiment 
could not have been performed in 1927 when Einstein posed the 
original question, because the necessary photon detectors had not 
yet been developed. Now, in 1978, anybody with a few thousand 
dollars worth of equipment can do it. (Actually, I only spent about 
$1500 for the optics. The photomultipliers and associated elec- 
tronics were already at hand in the Trenton State College radia- 
tion lab, and with the kind assistance of Dr. Gerald Nichols, our 
radiation person, the apparatus was quickly assembled.) 



I will describe the experiment the way I did it. The Hungarian 
experiment reported in 1957 was more elaborate and went into 
certain details of quantum statistics that I avoided. But the parts 
of the procedure and the results pertaining to the fundamental 
question were the same. 

The experiment has two parts. The first part is shown in Fig. 6. 
It consists simply of a light source, a light filter, a beam splitter, 
and a pair of photomultiplier tubes for detecting photons. The 
light source is a simple mercury-vapor bulb with an interference 
filter that allows through just one line of the mercury spectrum, 
the 4358-Angstrom blue line. The source is thus fairly mono- 
chromatic. A laser light source would have made the interferome- 
ter much easier to adjust, but since the photons come out of a 
laser in correlated bunches, this kind of source is just what we do 
not want. A mercury source emits photons at random, which is 
what we do want. 



FIG. 6. Photomultiplier tubes are used to detect photons of visible 
light in the split beam. The coincidence circuit gives a 
signal whenever the two detectors trigger simultaneously. 



The photon detectors were ordinary RCA photomultipliers, with 
an efficiency of about 20%, and a maximum sensitivity in the blue 
region of the spectrum. (The 20% efficiency means that out of 
every five photons hitting the cathode, one electrical pulse is pro- 
duced, on the average.) 

At first I had worried about the necessity for cooling the 
photomultipliers in liquid nitrogen (or at least in dry ice) to re- 
duce the electrical noise, for this is a common procedure in exper- 
iments involving the counting of single photons. However, I found 
that under the conditions of this experiment therd was no need to 
worry about cooling, because the number of photons from the 
light source was much greater than the number of noise pulses 
from the phototube. Therefore I treated the noise pulses just the 
same way I would treat background counts in a Geiger counter: 
simply count them and subtract them from the total counts to get 
the net counts produced by real photons. 

This was my first and most pleasant surprise — how easy it now 
is to detect and count single photons of visible light — especially 
with modern, fast electronics. (My previous experience with 
photomultipliers had been limited to counting gamma rays, which 
is another story.) 

In order to reduce the intensity of the light to the point where 
only one photon at a time went through the apparatus, I needed 
neutral filters. At this point I had spent all the money I wanted to 
spend. My eye fell upon some black plastic garbage bags. In a 
trice I had cut one up with a pair of scissors, and found that two, 
three, or four thicknesses of this black (actually dark green) plas- 
tic gave just the range of counting rates that I wanted. (Somehow 
that tickled me more than anything. A thousand bucks for preci- 
sion mirrors with micrometer mounts, a hundred dollars for a line 
filter, and two bits for a garbage bag.) 

It did not take long to determine that the beam splitter was 
working as advertised. Roughly 30% of the photons were counted 
at A, and another 30% at B. (The beam-splitter itself absorbed the 
other 40%. ) Next, the output of each detector was connected to a 
coincidence circuit. This is a piece of electronics that gives an out- 
put pulse if and only if input pulses are fed simultaneously to its 
two input terminals. (Or at least within one microsecond of each 
other; this is the resolving time of the circuit.) 

Since the photon pulses are not evenly spaced, but occur ran- 
domly, there is a certain probability that a photon will enter 
counter A and another photon will enter counter B less than a 



microsecond later, simply because of chance. The number of such 
random coincidences can be calculated; it is a standard problem in 
radiation measurement. 

The results of the measurements showed that the number of 
coincidences counted was just what you would expect from chance, 
and no more. What this means is that each photon is counted 
either at detector A or at detector B. The two detectors never trig- 
ger together unless two independent photons happen to arrive to- 
gether by chance. 

Well, this is just what we expected, so we are not surprised. A 
single photon does not split at the half-silvered mirror; it goes 
either to one detector or the other. It can’t be in two places at the 
same time. 

However, we now go on to the second part of the experiment. 
We take away the photomultipliers and install three more mirrors 
so that we have the interferometer arrangement discussed previ- 
ously and shown in Fig. 5. The light beam is split at the first 
half-silvered mirror, each of the resulting beams is reflected from 
a totally reflecting mirror, and then the two beams come together 
at another half-silvered mirror. If all the mirrors are adjusted 
properly (and micrometer-controlled mirror mounts are really 
necessary), then interference fringes will be seen in the recom- 
bined beam. The fringes can be seen either by projection on a 
photographic film, or by looking into the beam with a telescope. 

An interferometer of this type (with 4 mirrors) is known as a 
Mach-Zehnder interferometer. It is somewhat more difficult to 
adjust than the more common Michelson interferometer (with 
only 3 mirrors), but it has the advantage of making the two light 
paths symmetrical and equal in length. Such an interferometer is 
such a sensitive device that one could see shifting of the fringes 
just from touching the tabletop with a fingertip, or by breathing 
into the space between two of the mirrors. (Not being able to af- 
ford a $3000 optical table, we used an ordinary laboratory table of 
heavy wood with a */4-inch steel plate on top to mount the optics. 
The table legs were set in buckets of sand to reduce building vib- 

I photographed the interference fringes with a Polaroid camera, 
adding a pair of additional lenses to make a telephoto effect and 
enlarge the image. After focussing the fringes on a ground glass 
screen, I replaced the screen with a pack of 3000-speed black and 
white Polaroid film, and began making exposures. The adjusting 
and focussing operation was exceedingly delicate, but with pa- 


tience was finally accomplished. ' 

If only the line filter was placed between the light source and 
the interferometer, a 1/10-second exposure sufficed to take a pic- 
ture of fringes. However, this was much too many photons to be 
useful. With one of my garbage-bag plastic filters added, I found a 
5-second exposure was needed. This was still too much light. With 
two thicknesses of garbage-bag filters, a full one-hour exposure 
was needed to photograph fringes. (This required sitting in the 
dark for an hour, trying my patience to the limit.) The amount of 
light getting through the filters was barely visible to the naked 
eye, yet it corresponded to about one million photons per second 
going through the interferometer, as counted by the photomulti- 
pliers. However, since a photon is expected to take only about 
1/100-th of a microsecond to be photographed, this million photons 
per second is actually quite widely spaced. 

The fact that the coincidence rate of 1 million photons per sec- 
ond was still very little above what you would expect from chance 
proves this vital point: that photons were not overlapping to any 
great extent in the interferometer. 

The results of this experiment are shown in Fig. 7, where we 
see the actual fringes photographed in both the 5-second and 1- 
hour exposures. You can see that they are essentially identical, 
showing the same fringe pattern. Thus we prove that interference 
fringes can be produced one photon at a time. 

Each wave packet interferes with itself. 

7. Stating the Problem. 

What does it mean when we say that each wave packet inter- 
feres with itself? What we mean is this: in order to get fringes we 
must divide the wave into two parts at the first mirror, send each 
part around two different paths, and bring them together at the 
last mirror, where the two waves either add together or subtract 
from each other. This addition or subtraction happens individu- 
ally for each wave packet. 

Thus, in order to get interference fringes, the waves from each 
packet must go around both legs of the interferometer simulta- 
neously. This can be demonstrated simply by holding a card in 
one leg so that the beam going through that leg is interrupted. 
The output of the interferometer then becomes simply a feature- 
less spot of light. Both beams are needed to make fringes. Fur- 
thermore, if you change the angle of any one of the four mirrors, 
you shift the position of the fringes. This demonstrates that the 




FIG. 7. Photographs of interference fringes obtained with the 

interferometer. The one-hour exposure had one million photons 
per second going through the interferometer, which is slow 
enough so that this picture was taken one photon at a time. 




entire interferometer takes part in the production of the fringes. 

Therefore, we cannot explain the results of the counting exper- 
iment (Fig. 6) by saying that the half-silvered mirror merely 
sends a photon to either one detector or the other. The half- 
silvered mirror divides the wave amplitude so that half of it goes 
to one detector and half of it goes to the other detector. There is 
nothing in either theory or experiment to indicate that the two 
halves of the wave packet differ from each other. 

And yet — a photon is detected in only one detector at a time. 
Two identical half-packets impinge upon detectors A and B, and 
we find that either A triggers or B triggers. If A triggers, B does 
not trigger, and vice versa. 

We have now penetrated to the core of the mystery. Why is it 
that two detectors can be hit with the same stimulus, and yet only 
one of the two will respond? 

Do not make the naive error of replying that each half of the 
wave packet carries with it a 1/2 probability of triggering a detec- 
tor, and that is why each detector only triggers half of the time. 
This argument implies that the two probabilities of detection are 
independent of each other. But if that were the case you would 
expect to detect photons simultaneously in both detectors 25% of 
the time. It is similar to the coin-flipping problem: if you flip two 
coins, the probability of getting a head on each throw is 1/2. Since 
the two coins are completely independent of each other, the prob- 
ability of getting two heads together is x ^ = V4. 

But the experiment does not show this at all. It shows that we 
have an either-or situation; the probability of detection in A is 
the probability of detection in B is Vz, and the probability of detec- 
tion in either A or B is Vz -I- = 1. This implies that the two 

detectors are not independent. If A triggers, B does not trigger. 

8. Conjectures and Refutations. 

Actually, there is almost nothing new about the problems 
raised by this interferometer experiment. The situation is very 
analagous to that of the two-slit diffraction experiment. In that 
experiment we could just as well have asked the question: why 
does one grain of silver darken rather than another when a wave 
packet hits the photographic film? 

However, there is one important difference between the two ex- 
periments. In the two-slit experiment the wave packet never 
spreads very far, so you can hide your ignorance by saying that 
you can’t tell what is going on inside a single wave packet. In the 



experiment with the half-silvered mirror we can imagine the de- 
tectors to be so far apart that the wave packet is divided into two 
distinct and separate halves. It then becomes difficult to under- 
stand the results. 

Historically, many problems similEU" to this one have been rec- 
ognized in quantum theory. And historically, three ways of han- 
dling these problems have developed. 

One way is to come out flatly and say that it is impossible to 
observe what happens inside a single wave packet, it makes no 
sense to talk about unobservable objects, and therefore these are 
meaningless questions that cannot be answered. 

A second way is to say that there must be something going on 
inside a wavepacket that could be observed if we knew how to 
look, and that this inner life of the wave packet could explain the 
paradoxes involved in the wave-particle situation. 

A third approach says that an entirely new kind of theory is re- 
quired, one that abandons the classical concepts of wave and par- 
ticle entirely and replaces them by new and more abstract con- 

I can hear members of the audience screaming, "Get rid of 
waves and particles? What else is there?” 

Well, at the moment I don’t know. But one thing we always 
must keep in mind when we think deeply about these matters is 
to recognize that our bodies, our sensory organs, our brains are all 
made of atoms like everything else, and that the only way we 
have to gain information about the world around us is through 
signals sent to our brains through our various sense organs. How 
this happens is one of the great mysteries of nature, but the fact 
remains that our concepts about the things around us are essen- 
tially inventions. The only information entering my brain when I 
look at an apple is a series of coded pulses surging through my 
optic nerve; the image of apple is invented. 

Similarly, the concept of particle results when a single grain is 
darkened in a film or a single pulse comes out of a detector. 
Something darkened the grain, so we call it a particle. On the 
other hand, when millions of grains are darkened and I see bright 
and dark fringes on the film, then I infer (invent) a wave, because 
a wave kind of thing is all I know that produces such patterns. 

All of this has been known since Plato compared our minds to 
the inside of a cave, with shadows dancing on the walls from 
which we infer the nature of the outside world. There are various 
ways of handling this idea, each way leading to a different kind of 


theory about nature. 

The "naive realist” believes that the images in his mind corres- 
pond to real physical entities existing in nature. Atoms, electrons, 
photons, are rteal things in this way of thinking, and it is the 
function of science to get us as close as we can to visualizing the 
concrete nature of these things. 

An alternative view, held by positivists of various types, is that 
reality is a very abstract thing, that what we think we know 
about it is entirely a made-up fiction — that particles, waves, 
energy, even space and time are simply metaphors or analogies 
that we construct in order to get some kind of handle on what is 
going on out there. The prevailing interpretation of quantum 
mechanics falls into this category. 

There is a third way of looking at the world — that of the 
idealist, who says that everything is just a mental construct, that 
the only reality is the primary sensation in the mind, and every- 
thing else is a fiction. But that way lies solipsism and madness. 

Now the viewpoint of the naive realist seems simplest and most 
common-sensical. Indeed, none other than Albert Einstein consid- 
ered himself to be a naive realist and always tried to make his 
theories represent some reality of nature. Why is it, then, that the 
majority of modern theorists fall into the second, more abstract 

The reason is this: whenever you try to think of the world in 
terms of material objects such as waves and particles (or even 
wave packets) you get into logical difficulties. The paradox we 
have seen resulting from the interferometer experiment is one 
example of the trouble that arises whenever you try to explain 
such happenings in terms of waves and/or particles. 

Many attempts have been made to answer the question, "What 
happens to a photon when it encounters a half-silvered mirror?” 
Whenever these attempts involve concrete, realistic ideas, 
paradoxes arise. For example, in the 1930’s Werner Heisenberg 
tried answering the question by saying that the transmitted half 
and the reflected half of the wave packet goes along until one of 
them triggers a detector (or is otherwise absorbed by a piece of 
matter). Then the entire wave packet instantaneously collapses. 
This means that the half-packet way over at the other detector 
must collapse at the same time. This requires transmission of 
some kind of signal instantaneously from one half-packet to the 
other. And faster-than-light tremsmission of signals isn’t consid- 
ered kosher in physics. But Heisenberg shrugged this off by say- 



ing that it is not possible to transmit any kind of message from 
detector A to detector B, so this operation does not defy relativity. 

Unfortunately, this argument does not hold water if you change 
the arrangement to that shown in Fig. 8, where detector A is very 
far away from the half-silvered mirror, while detector B is rela- 
tively close. How do you explain the situation where detector A 
triggers, while detector B remains silent? In this situation the 
half-packet at B has to know ahead of time that A is going to be 
triggered. The collapsing-wave packet theory requires that the 
message goes from A to B backwards in time. This is the kind of 
trouble you get into whenever you try to apply naive, classical, 
"realistic” concepts to quantum mechanics. 

All this conjecture is made irrelevant, however, when we realize 
that the wave packet has no meaning when used to describe a 
single particle, according to the modern way of looking at things. 
The wave packet is only supposed to describe the statistical be- 
havior of a large number of particles; it is nothing more than a 
mathematical device. This way of looking at things puts us into 


FIG. 8. What happens when one counter is farther from the mirror 
than the other? 



the second philosophical category, and we simply fall back on the 
admission that quantum mechanics doesn’t tell us anything about 
the behavior of a single particle. 

On the other hand, if we insist on remaining realists, we would 
like to have some way of picturing a single electron or photon. We 
think there ought to be some lower level of reality beneath the 
quaiitum-mechanical wave packet. If the wave packet is telling us 
statistics, what is it telling us statistics about! 

So we turn to another kind of model and try it out for size. 
Suppose we make the following assumptions: A wave packet is a 
real kind of thing that carries energy from one place to another. 
The energy itself is located in a very small region of the wave 
packet. The bulk of the wave packet is non-material and non- 
energetic, and is called a "guiding wave.” While the packet is 
moving through space you have no idea where the energy is lo- 
cated within the packet. Only when the particle is "detected” does 
the position of the energy make itself known. 

Such a model was actually proposed by Louis de Broglie at a 
very early stage of the quantum theory game. He discarded this 
model at some point, but has in recent years come back to it. 

The de Broglie model is not generally accepted by the physics 
community, but let’s see where it leads us if we apply it to the 
interferometer experiment. If a wave packet with a little hard 
lump of energy buried in it hits a half-silvered mirror, the guid- 
ing wave splits into a reflected and a transmitted part, but the 
energy can only go one way: it can be either reflected or transmit- 
ted. The chance occurrences during the scattering of the photon 
from the mirror make the decision as to which way the energy is 
going to travel. 

This model does a rather good job of describing what happens in 
the interferometer. The guiding wave goes around both legs of the 
interferometer, producing the interference fringes, while the 
energy lump travels either to detector A or detector B in a ran- 
dom sequence. The model has the virtue of not requiring faster- 
than-light signals to explain why only one detector triggers at a 

Is there anything wrong with this model? One difficulty is that 
there is no way of testing its validity. It doesn’t predict any ob- 
servable results that could not be gotten from conventional quan- 
tum mechanics. Thus, you don’t get any new information, while at 
the same time you are saddling yourself with unobservable con- 
structs such as guiding wave and energy lump. And physicists 



don’t like to deal with unobservables unless they are absolutely 
forced to. 

Another difficulty is the fact that this model introduces us to an 
unsavory character: a portion of a guiding-wave packet without 
energy (the part that does not get detected). This is unheard of. 

Notice what an interesting thing has just happened. We have 
invented a model that describes what happens inside the inter- 
ferometer in a comfortable way. (That is, I am comfortable with 
it.) Yet it cannot be verified, it deals with unobservables, and it 
doesn’t buy anything that can’t be bought with the conventional 
theory. Its only advantage is that it gives us something to vis- 

This kind of model is an example of a "hidden variable” theory. 
Hidden variable theories have been played with for over two de- 
cades by a group of theoreticians who are unhappy with the fact 
that quantum mechanics does away with determinism on a mi- 
croscopic level. The interferometer experiment is a prime example 
of this breakdown of determinism, for in that experiment it is im- 
possible to predict whether a given photon will trigger detector A 
or detector B. Furthermore, a series of photons will go to A or to 
B in a random manner, as though there were nothing but 
"chance” deciding on its path. (In other words, the same cause can 
produce two different effects; this could not happen in a truly de- 
terministic universe.) So if you ask, "Why did the photon trigger 
detector A instead of detector B?” the physicist adhering to the 
conventional interpretation of quantum mechanics will say, 
"There’s no way to answer that question. It’s just part of the Prin- 
ciple of Indeterminacy.” 

But there is a minority view among a group of physicists who 
think this kind of reply just sweeps the truth under the rug. They 
think that there are things going on inside an individual wave 
packet that you can’t see on the outside, but which result in the 
random behavior of the wave packet as a whole. They have de- 
veloped a whole class of hidden variable theories. 

Hidden variable theories are very attractive (especially to 
realists) because they promise to return the concept of strict deter- 
minism to a science which has lost it. This was just what Einstein 
meant when he made the famous statment about God not playing 
dice with the universe. He did not like to see a physics in which it 
was possible for a photon to hit detector A instead of B for no ap- 
parent reason at all. Determinism means that every effect has a 
cause and the same cause always gives the same effect. But in 


the way quantum mechanics had developed in the early days it 
was possible for the same cause to have many different effects. 
Hidden variables at least attempted to say there was some reason 
on a sub-microscopic level for a particle to choose one destiny over 

The physicist David Bohm made a strong argument for hidden 
variables in the late ’50’s, and in the two decades since then has 
attracted an active following. There were two difficulties with the 
theory from the outset. First, it was hard to make the theory pre- 
dict some experimental result that differed from ordinary quan- 
tum mechanics. After much effort and dispute, certain varieties of 
hidden variable theories were shown to predict measurable re- 
sults, and so it was possible to go ahead with decisive experi- 

Secondly, and unfortunately, the experiments have not sup- 
ported the hidden variable idea. To my knowledge, the experi- 
mental tests done to date verify conventional quantum mechanics 
and do not verify hidden variables. So hidden variables, while a 
lovely idea, doesn’t seem to work. At best, there might be a kind 
of hidden variable in operation that doesn’t show any observable 
differences from conventional quantum mechanics. So it doesn’t 
make any difference if you believe in it or not. 

Where are we, then? We are at a point where we may need a 
very radical change in viewpoint in order to explain the paradoxi- 
cal behavior of fundamental particles. We may have to stop using 
the term "wave packets” altogether. We may have to change our 
notions of space and time. 

A physicist named Mario Bunge, who works down among the 
philosophical foundations of physics, has devised a way of present- 
ing quantum mechanics without mentioning either waves or par- 
ticles. He does have a ^ -function and he talks about something 
called "quantons,” and he ends up with something very much like 
conventional quantum mechanics, but without any kind of physi- 
cal entities that can be pictured in your head. It is okay for 
mathematicians and theoretical physicists, but it is emotionally 
unsatisfying to us mortals who ask silly questions like, "Why does 
the photon trigger A instead of B?” In an abstract theory 
questions like that are not allowed. 

A different kind of theory is the one called "The Many- Worlds 
Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.” First published in 1957 by 
Hugh Everett, and developed further by R. Neill Graham and 
Bryce S. DeWitt, this is a theory of such utter strangeness and 


mind-boggling weirdness, that every science fiction reader will 
recognize its origins. The basic theory was contained in Everett’s 
doctoral dissertation at Princeton. In order to get it published in 
the Reviews of Modern Physics and recognized by the profession 
as a valid conjecture, his advisor John A. Wheeler, a man of solid 
repute, appended a brief note saying, in effect: look, fellas, this 
sounds like a wild idea, but there’s nothing wrong with it, the 
mathematical development is sound, and it deserves considera- 

A complete description of the theory would require an entire ar- 
ticle by itself, but let me give a very brief rundown. The many- 
worlds interpretation starts by picturing the entire universe to be 
one huge, complex wave packet. In other words, we don’t think of 
the photon as one wave packet, the detector as another, and the 
human observer as still another wave packet. We are all part of 
one continuously-joined wave packet. And everything that hap- 
pens in the universe is just the result of the motions of this vast 
wave packet. 

Now in quantum mechanics we encounter many situations 
where a particle goes along its merry way, interacts with a scat- 
terer or a detector, and as a result several different things may 
happen. For example, in the experiment we have been discussing, 
the photon after encountering the half-silvered mirror may be de- 
tected at A or it may be detected at B. Conventional quantum 
mechanics says: there is some probability that one thing will hap- 
pen and some probability that the other thing will happen, but 
only one thing will happen at a time. 

The many-world theory says just the opposite. It says both 
things will happen. 

How can both things happen when we only observe one of 
them? This is the heart of the theory. Whenever something hap- 
pens that has more than one possibility, the universal wave pac- 
ket splits into a number of branches, just as the wave packet hit- 
ting the half-silvered mirror splits into a transmitted and re- 
flected wave. Since the observer is part of this universal wave 
packet, the observer is only aware of the branch that he happens 
to be on. So he sees only one result of the measurement. But 
somewhere else the other thing is happening on another branch of 
the split universe. And there is a twin of the observer riding on 
that branch watching that thing happening. 

Science fiction readers will recognize this theory as being none 
other than the alternate-universe plot so beloved of many writers. 


But with a vengeance. It requires the universe splitting every 
time any kind of interaction happens, which means over 10^®° 
copies of the universe being produced every instant! This sounds 
utterly unreal at first hearing, but basically it’s no worse than a 
wave packet splitting in two at a half-silvered mirror. It’s just a 
more complex packet. 

Of course, the Everett theory contains much more than the bare 
statement given in the above paragraphs. There is a great 
amount of complex mathematical development to it. But the final 
result is that the theory gives the same results and predictions as 
conventional quantum mechanics, and therefore there is no way 
of testing the theory to see if it makes any difference whether you 
believe it or not. It is simply another way of looking at the world. 
The point is that, farfetched as it sounds, the many-worlds in- 
terpretation is as good a way of looking at the universe as any 
other way. Indeed, people such as Bryce DeWitt think it’s the only 

At this point we see that the simple experiment performed with 
a light bulb and four mirrors has brought us into the deepest 
levels of philosophy and foundations of physics. The way we 
interpret the experiment depends entirely on the way we look at 
reality — whether we are "naive realists” or "positivists” or even 

In this connection I must take issue with Kate Wilhelm, who, 
in her introduction to Nebula Award Stories Nine (Harper & Row, 
1975), says, "With Francis Bacon’s formulation of the scientific 
method, the separation of science from philosophy began; by now 
there is little, if any, connection between them.” 

Quite the contrary. As we have seen, the kind of physical 
theory you choose depends on your philosophical orientation — the 
way you look at the world. Epistemology as a branch of philosophy 
is alive and well, even though it now goes under the heading of 
"Philosophy of Science.” 

And that’s what we’ve been talking about. 


by Frederick Longbeard 

art: George Barr 

SHAWNA — (Supraliminal Hegelian Absolutized World Neotranspatial 
Amplifier) a device that amplifies the component of mind that creates 
and alters reality. SHAWNA theory, rooted in the work of the early ideal- 
istic philosophers, was first made practicable in 2134 by physicist-phi- 
losopher Leonid Veggnitz, at which time it was first used in transportation 
over multi-parsec distances (See: Shawna, Ltd. under Space Lines, Com- 

— Encyclopaedia Calactica 

As the huge, swept-wing liner taxied out to the run-up pad at the 
end of the runway, Enoch Rawls began wishing he had never taken 
up Leonid Veggnitz’s offer. The brain behind shawna. Ltd. had 
coaxed the semanticist into converting the premises and applica- 
tions of shawna theory and flight from Aristotelian to Non-Aris- 
totelian logic. "Soup it up,” as Veggnitz put it. The philosopher 
pilots he had been introduced to as he took his seat in the cockpit 


seemed confident enough, but Rawls had never been up before. As 
the engines grumbled, he turned to his right. Captain Sanford, di- 
rector of the spaceline’s philosophical flight school, looked back. "Is 
there something the matter. Doctor?” 

"Captain, why does this ship have engines? I thought all we had 
to do was think our way to Betelvane.” 

Sanford chuckled and nodded his head toward the four pilots in 
the seats forward of theirs. "They have to get us into the air first. 
Otherwise, we’d leave a dandy hole in the runway. Because of the 
extra weight we’d pick up, we probably wouldn’t make our desti- 

"I see.” 

"SHAWNA flight is limited right now, but as I understand Doctor 
Veggnitz, he hopes that your work will make us shawna. Unlim- 
ited — bigger payloads with fewer philosophers.” 

Rawls nodded and looked toward the front. First Philosopher 
Wheeler reached to a panel, picked up a mike, and keyed it. "Tower, 
this is SHAWNA one one seven, PFR to Betelvane, over.” 

Rawls saw the First Philosopher listen into his headphones. 

"Roger, tower; one one seven cleared for immediate take-off.” 
Wheeler turned to his right. "Okay, Hansen, throw the coal to it.” 
The one called Hansen, Second Philosopher, grasped the throttles 
with his left hand and gradually pushed them forward. The ship 
trembled and began rolling forward. 

Hansen called off the markers as they rolled down the runway. 
"Twenty . . . nineteen . . . eighteen . . .” 

Third Philosopher Valdez called off the airspeed. "Ninety . . . one- 
thirty . . . one-ninety . . . two-eighty, and rotate!” 

Rawls felt his stomach sink to his lap as Wheeler pulled back on 
the wheel, shooting the great craft up into the atmosphere. Wheeler 
nodded at Hansen. "Gear up.” 

Rawls’ buttocks quivered as he heard the multiple whine-clunk 
of the landing gear retracting. 

"Gear up.” 


"Flaps up.” 

"Heading two one zero.” 

"Two one zero.” 

Rawls watched as the philosophers flicked switches, turned knobs, 
and pulled at controls. Wheeler turned a knob and then keyed his 
mike. "This is the First Philosopher, Captain Wheeler, speaking. 
Welcome aboard shawna flight one one seven enroute to Hajii Field, 

92 S H A W N A, L T D. 

Betelvane. We will be at jump altitude in approximately eight min- 
utes, and we estimate Hajii Field at 2:72, interstellar standard time. 
Local time will be 8:91. Enjoy your flight, and please pay attention 
now while the stewardess in your compartment explains the ship’s 
emergency equipment and procedures. Thank you.” Wheeler hung 
up the mike. 

Rawls felt a hand shaking his arm. He turned toward Sanford. 

"Before the jump, I should explain what you are going to see, 
since neither of us will be allowed to talk during the jump.” He 
smiled. "Distracting the philosophers during the jump could be very 

"I see.” 

Sanford pointed at the four philosophers. "Those seats swivel 
around, and they will turn at jump time. This is so they will not be 
looking out of the window. You see those helmets suspended from 
the overhead?” 

Rawls looked up and saw four gold helmets, coils of red and or- 
ange wires leading from them, dangling from hooks. "Yes. Are they 
the links to the amplifier?” 

Sanford nodded. "They’ll put them on after they’ve turned. You 
see, they can’t chance having their vision contradict their thinking 
about where they are.” 

Rawls nodded. "I can see why, but what about simple human 
doubt? I know these flights have been going on for years, but I have 

"These philosophers are the cream of a very select crop. They are 
screened and re-screened until the last doubting Thomas is re- 
moved, then screened again.” Sanford smiled and raised his eye- 
brows. "I think you can see why we can’t afford a rogue skeptic 
getting into the driver’s seat.” 

Rawls nodded, then the cockpit door opened. A stewardess entered 
carrying a cup-laden tray. "Coffee, fellas?” 

she carried the tray to the four philosophers, who each took a 
cup, then she turned toward Rawls. "Coffee, Doctor?” 

Rawls took a cup. "Thank you.” Sanford took a cup, and as the 
stewardess left, Rawls sipped at the steaming brew. He was half- 
finished as the philosophers put the ship on autopilot and swung 
their chairs around. Wheeler smiled at the Doctor, then reached 
down and placed his coffee on the deck. Then, he reached up and 
pulled down the helmet above his seat and placed it firmly upon his 
head. The other philosophers did the same. 



Sanford leaned over to Rawls. "Doctor, until after the jump, we 
must do no talking.” 

Rawls nodded and watched the philosophers. Wheeler loosened 
his necktie, checked to see that the other philosophers were wearing 
their helmets, then turned to Hansen. "Right, Dicky, engage the 

"Check.” Hansen fiddled with a small panel of knobs recessed into 
the armrest of his chair. "Amp engaged, power reading at 100 per- 
cent, all green.” 

Wheeler turned to the Third Philosopher. "How are we holding 
up, Pancho?” 

Third Philosopher Valdez checked the instruments on the console 
attached to his chair. "Airspeed four twenty, altitude twelve thou- 
sand, bearing two one zero, all green.” 

Wheeler turned to the Fourth Philosopher. "An 5 d;hing in the way, 

The Fourth Philosopher examined the crt readout next to his 
chair. "All clear. Captain.” 

"Very well, engage the sweep.” Wheeler turned to Rawls. "The 
sweep is what we call the field that moves out from the ship to 
exclude organic materials from the jump area. It wouldn’t do if we 
brought an air pocket full of germs with us to Betelvane.” Rawls 

The Fourth Philosopher looked up from his controls and turned 
toward Wheeler. "Clean as a whistle. Captain.” 

Wheeler nodded. "Are we ready to throw the old scow into Berke- 
ley, then?” The other three philosophers nodded. Wheeler faced to 
his front, stabbed several buttons set into his chair’s armrest. "Into 
first, then: objects depend on mind for existence; objects have no 
meaning apart from the knower, and the knower is mind; objects 
cannot exist apart from mind.” 

Rawls watched as the four philosophers concentrated on the state- 
ments. Wheeler looked at the others. "Are we ready to shift into 
second?” The other philosophers nodded. Rawls looked out of the 
nearest window and saw no difference. Wheeler cleared his throat. 
"Terms and relations logically determine one another; ultimate 
reality is a system of judgments; truth is defined in terms of the 
relation of these judgments in the formation of a consistent whole.” 

Rawls noticed that the sky had taken on a curious blue-purple 
shade, and the clouds a rippling sheen. Wheeler pulled a hanky 
from his pocket and dabbed at his forehead. The First Philosopher 
looked at his fellows, then took a deep breath. "Ready for third, 

94 S H A W N A, L T D. 

lads?” Nods all around. "Here we go, then; subject and object are 
reciprocally dependent upon each other; there can be no subject 
without an object and no object can exist without a subject; complete 
reality is a unity of subject and object.” 

Outside, the sky began pulsing from red through purple to black, 
then back to red. The clouds radiated with a metallic gold color. 
Wheeler dabbed again at his forehead, then looked at the Second 
Philosopher. "Very well, Dicky, run the dissolve tape.” 

"Check.” Hanson jabbed a button, and Kawls watched as the four 
philosophers went rigid. Outside, the golden clouds blurred, then 
melded into the purple sky. The sky itself faded until there was 
nothing — not even the color black. Rawls felt a poke on his arm, 
turned toward Sanford, and took the note from Sanford’s hand. 

"Dissolve tape runs at high speed, philosophically showing this 
reality dissolving. Creation tape will construct the reality of this 
ship being in Betelvane’s atmosphere.” Rawls nodded his under- 
standing, then turned his attention back to the philosophers. Wheeler 
came out of it, shook his head, and looked over the faces of the 

"Anyone for a break? Pancho, you look all in.” 

Valdez shook his head and gasped for air. "Let’s get it over with, 
Captain. I’m up for it.” 

"Are you certain? I can have a stewardess bring in coffee.” 

Valdez shook his head. "I’m okay.” 

"Very well. Anyone else?” Wheeler saw the heads shaking, then 
he turned to Hansen. "Run the Betelvane tape, then, Dicky.” 

Hansen put his hand to the control^ "Betelvane tape, check.” 

The philosophers went rigid again as the blankness outside the 
cockpit filled in with pale blue sky, high thready cloud formations, 
and strange reptilian flying creatures. Wheeler and the other three 
officers sagged in their chairs, then Wheeler sat up. "There we go. 
Doctor Rawls. Another successful jump.” He turned to Valdez. "Pan- 
cho, what shape are we in?” 

Valdez, a dazed look in his eyes, squinted at the controls. "On the 
button. Captain. Airspeed four twenty, altitude twelve thousand, 
bearing two one zero. Hajii Field in . . . fourteen minutes.” Valdez 
slumped back in his chair. 

Wheeler nodded at the Fourth Philosopher. "Tony, take over Pan- 
cho’s console after you collapse the field, will you? He looks all in.” 

Valdez smiled at Wheeler, then closed his eyes. "Thanks, Cap- 

Wheeler looked at Rawls as Hanson swung his chair around. "We 
S H A W N A, L T D. 95 

have to keep the helmets on for a while, but it’s all right to talk 

Rawls nodded. "Thank you, Captain Wheeler. That was quite im- 

Wheeler turned his chair and faced the front as Sanford leaned 
toward Rawls. "You see. Doctor, the reality of Betelvane has changed 
since that tape was made. They must keep linked to the amplifier 
to program the new tape, and also to establish our own part in this 
reality. You know, sort of firm things up a bit.” 

Rawls nodded, then rubbed his chin. "My mind was so occupied 
with what was happening during the jump, I really didn’t have time 
to consider the application of Non- Aristotelian logic to the argu- 
ments. I suppose the application should extend to the tapes too?” 

Sanford nodded. "This is merely a familiarization flight. Doctor. 
I suppose your real work will be done in the science research center 
at SHAWNA back on Earth. But, offhand, what do you think?” 

Rawls pursed his lips. "Well, Captain Sanford, the first step in 
the transformation of any system from Aristotelian to Non-Aristo- 
telian logic is the problem of identity. Your flight propositions are 
rooted in Aristotelian identity: mind is matter; matter is mind; A 
is A. One of the foundations of Non- Aristotelian logic is that A is 
almost never A.” 

Wheeler laughed and turned his chair around. "Come now. Doc- 
tor. I don’t think anything could be more self-evident than A is A.” 

Rawls pulled a pen from his pocket and scribbled "A is A” on a 
scrap of paper, then handed it to Wheeler. "Now, Captain, you agree 
with that statement?” 

Wheeler shrugged. "Of course.” 

Rawls smiled. "The word 'is’ in that statement functions the same 
as the equal sign in mathematics. The statement, as it is used, 
means that the propositions, objects, realities, or whatever, on either 
side of the word 'is’ are identical; that is, equal in all respects. Look 
at the paper and you can see that they obviously are not equal in 
all respects. With my handwriting. I’m certain that the letters are 
shaped differently, and they are on different sides of the word 'is’. 
I’m sure I used more ink on one than the other, and so on.” 

Wheeler studied the paper. "But, Doctor, this is a piece of paper 
stating or symbolizing a concept, and on the conceptual level, A is 
A is a tautology.” 

Rawls nodded. "But, Captain Wheeler, language — that is, sym- 
bols — is only a map to reality. Language is not reality; a map isn’t 
the area it describes. I defy you to find one instance of identity in 


the real world. You might say an apple is an apple, but is apple 
number one equal in all respects to apple number two?” 

Wheeler studied the paper, frowned, then shook his head. Sanford 
lifted his hand and found it covered with black goop. He felt the 
armrest under his other hand going mushy. "Wheeler, stop thinking 
about that! We’re into a dissolve phase!” 

Wheeler looked up, saw the structural braces of the cabin bend- 
ing. "Hanson! Hanson! Run the Betelvane tape again, on the dou- 

Hanson looked over the back of his chair. "I can’t, Captain! I ... I 
don’t believe it, but we’re in Hegelian Overdrive!” 

Wheeler swung around and took over Hanson’s console. Rawls 
looked at Sanford. "What’s happening?” 

Sanford wiped a hand over his face. It came away wet. "Hegelian 
Overdrive. It’s only been theorized so far; this is the first time — ” 
Sanford turned to Rawls. "We’ve had reality go soft on us before, 
but another run of the tape usually cures it. But this . . .” 

"I don’t understand. What’s Hegelian Overdrive?” 

"The ontological argument first used to . . . prove the existence of 
a supreme being founds the theory for the Overdrive. . . .” Sanford 
looked around Rawls, his eyes widening. "Wheeler, it’s Valdez! He’s 
praying! Get the damned helmet off of him!” 

The Fourth Philosopher reached out and pulled Valdez’s helmet 
from his head. Valdez wrung his hands. "God, we’re dissolving. 
Heavenly Father, please accept this. Your most unworthy child to 
your bos — ” 

"Shut up!” screamed Wheeler. Valdez appeared to come out of it. 

"What — what happened?” 

Rawls stood and went to the window. As far as he could see, a 
carpet of soft billowing clouds spread before them. In the distance, 
tall gleaming spires glinted with an iimer light. A being garbed in 
flowing robes, playing a harp, flew by the window, then into the 
distance. Rawls turned and faced Valdez. Wheeler was shaking the 
Third Philosopher by his collar. "You idiot! How did you ever get 
through screening?” 

Valdez blubbered as he held out his hands. "Captain, I haven’t 
thought about religion since I was a boy! It’s just ... I was scared. 

Rawls saw Sanford tium from the opposite window. "Valdez?” 

"Yes, Captain Sanford?” 

"Do you believe in Hell?” 

Valdez shrugged. "I don’t know. Captain. I didn’t even know I 

believed in Heaven. Why?” 

Sanford turned back to his window. "There’s a guy out there with 
a long beard and a big book, making a list and checking it twice.” 
He turned back toward the others. "And I don’t think he’s Santa 

Rawls gulped and turned back to his own window. A group of 
cherubs were playing king of the mountain on a cloud below. Dear 
me, thought Rawls, I wonder where semanticists are sent? I hope my 
bag doesn’t get lost in the confusion. 



(from page 61) 

Place the 26 black cards of a deck in one pile. Next to it place, 
say, 13 red cards. Turn your back and ask someone to take as many 
cards as he likes from the black pile and shuffle them into the red 
pile. Then take the same number of cards from the former all-red 
pile and shuffle them into the black pile. 

You turn around, massage your temples, and announce that your 
clairvoyant powers tell you that the number of red cards among the 
black is exactly the same as the number of black cards among the 

This must always be the case, and for the same reason given in 
the solution to the martini problem. If you like, you can let a spec- 
tator shuffle the two piles together, then deal 26 cards into one pile 
and 13 into a second pile. The final result will be the same as before. 

Now go back and re-read the first part of this feature. What whop- 
ping error was made in describing Coiuit Dracula’s mixing of the 
cocktails? See page 119 for the answer. 

98 S H A W N A, L T D. 



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Allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery of your first copy. H9H056 


by Steve Perry & Jesse Peel 

art: Karl Kofoed 

Mr. Perry and his family have recently moved 
from Louisiana to Oregon, where he’s the latest 
addition to the large and flourishing colony 
of SF writers in that wet and rainy state — at least, 
it’s rainy in the suburbs of Portland, where Mr. Perry 
reports he’s exchanged warm rains 
for cold with his move. 



Most of the two hundred Spe’lar had come to jeer. Not aloud, of 
course — ^they were too refined — but their silence would be more 
damning than the loudest catcalls and hisses. 

Carl took a deep breath. Disapproval would be bad; there might 
be those in the audience who wished him worse — some who might 
try to carry out the rumors Theem had mentioned. 


Until now, he’d been an unknown quantity, a rumor, an oddity, 
a potential — but no threat; he was only a Terran, after all, no 


But those things weren’t important — not compared to the real 
reason he couldn’t fail! 

The hall was almost filled. Through the dim lights the Spe’lar 
preferred, Carl could see groups of the tall, thin-limbed, barrel- 
chested creatures moving to their seats. The silence was almost 
tangible, a dark shroud covering them, weighing heavily upon the 

Alone on stage, the sharp, tangy odor of the tjing-oil on the 
arofloj’s key-pivots filled his nose, dilating his nostrils with its 

His short and thick fingers shook, but he covered the motion by 
clutching the arofloj tightly. Even the four waldoes had a non- 
intention tremor, driven by the other jittery muscles of his nerv- 
ous body. 

Nervous? Oh, yes he was nervous! He hadn’t been so nervous in 
six years — 

— had it really been six years? 

God! And how many years before that? A decade-and-a-half? 
Nearly all his life! 

From the wings, Theem smiled reassuringly. In the subdued 
light, Carl saw him twirl the seven fingers of his right hand in 
the Spe’lar sign for good fortune. 

His mouth was too dry. Aye, he thought. I’ll need good luck! He 
managed a weak smile back at Theem. This was important to the 
Spe’lar, too, perhaps as important as it was to Carl. Maybe more 
so — his reputation would suffer more than Carl’s. If he failed . . . 

Carl was a violin string, stretched too far, ready to break — ! 

Then he knew it was time. There would be no introductions; 
they all knew who and what he was — there was no need for lily- 
gilding. They had all come for one thing, one thing only, and that 
would stand or fall on its own, no excuses, no disclaimers. 



Carl lifted his eyes slightly, to stare unseeing at the dark ceil- 
ing. Damn you! he thought. Whatever hell you inhabit, damn you! 

Six years! For this single moment, this brief instant, here, 
now — he’d get no second chance — it would have to be right — this 
was it! 

He took another deep breath, glanced again at Theem, and 
raised the arofloj, oh-so-carefully. Lightly, he rested his 
fingers — all fourteen of them — on the keys. Being basic Terran, 
he’d only been born with the usual ten fingers, unlike the Spe’lar. 
Those extra four digits had cost him — in pain, in time) in money. 
All too soon, he’d know if they’d been worth it. 

With a motion so automatic it was now nearly a reflex, he 
formed the proper embouchure of lips, tongue, teeth, and blow- 
hole with the shining brass instrument. 

And with that motion, his nervousness ebbed, and he became 
one with the arofloj. 

Softly, he began to play. 

Carl had turned back to look at Vaughan, and smiled a bitter 
smile. "I wish you hadn’t said that.” His voice was almost a whis- 

Fat Jack nodded, then shrugged. "I could hardly deny it any 
longer. I know — and I suspect you already knew, an5^ay. My ad- 
mission was hardly needed.” 

It was true. Carl had known — oh, not for long — but he’d known, 
just as Jack’d said. Modesty was all well and good, but inappro- 
priate when false. Still, he didn’t have to face it, if Jack hadn’t 
said it . . . 

He stared at the flute in his hands, his mind focused time and 
space far away. 

"Is it so terrible,” Jack asked, "to be the best flutist on 
Earth — probably in the Galaxy? At your age?” 

He meant it as a kindness. 

"Yes,” Carl answered, "it is.” 

"But why?” 

"When you were my age — twenty-six — what did you look for- 
ward to? What did you want more than anything?” 

Jack smiled, the broad grin creasing his heavy face. "Two 
things: one was to be thin.” He glanced down at his vast paunch. 
"Afraid I failed in that! The second was to be the greatest artist 
m the world with a flute.” 

Carl nodded. "That one you managed.” 



"Ah, but look how long it took me! I was well over, let’s say, 
fifty, and after he died! And here you’ve come along and out-done 
me! Not that I mind — I was the best for some years, if I do say so 
myself, but — ” 

" — now I am.” 

"Yes. Of course, maybe genes had something to — ” 

Carl jerked his head around and up sharply to stare at Jack. 

"I’ve only partially achieved my goal,” he said, softer. "You say 
I’m the best — how good is that?” 

Jack shook his head, knowing what Carl was asking. 

"You want the truth?” 


"Not as good as he was.” 

There was no joy in Carl’s smile. He’d known that too. 

Jack forced a short laugh. "Don’t worry! You’ll get better. 
You’re young — ” 

Carl stared at the floor. No. He had accomplished part of what 
he’d wanted — no, not so much wanted as had to have — the thing 
which had driven him all his life; the obsession which had bent 
his mind from the age of ten, shaped his life, twisted his psyche. 
He’d learned to play the silver tube, spent countless thousands of 
hours practicing, learning, working, getting better, reaching new 
limits — 

— and yes! Now he was the best. Now. Someday, he might be 
better. . . . 

But in the past, there was one who would always be remem- 
bered as the best. A man who had magic in his lips and fingers, 
the flutist every great player was always compared to — always 
ranked under — the immortal Adolph Viren — the greatest master 
of the flute to ever live — ! 

Adolph Viren. 

Carl’s father. 

Dead ten years now, but still ever-present in Carl’s mind. 

He looked down at his short and stubby fingers, and remem- 
bered those of his father; long, thin, perfect for his instrument. 

You don’t have the hands, his father always told him. You’ll 
never be really good. . . . 

Never as good as I! 

The first notes were right, he knew. The bass boomed with 
appropriate, deep power; the high trill-runs were on key; the tune 



carried correctly, with proper force. But that early section was 
merely a warm-up, merely an introduction — any moron student 
could do as much without screwing up — 

— Any moron Spe’lar could . . . 

But Carl was only a Terran, the most basic of all stocks, and he 
only had one minor modification, non-genetic at that — the 
waldo-phalanges that jutted from the metal-and-plastic metacar- 
pals and carpals built onto his hands and wrists. No lung had 
been added, no lip, no tongue. Only the extra fingers — hardly 

He was no longer seeing the audience; but he could feel them, 
feel their attention pressing upon him, waiting, wondering. He 
was lost in the much-practiced tune, buried in the depths of the 
sage-theme of Cutron, the melody of Thull the Hero, as he stalked 
through the Arrowtree Forest in search of the terrible Fn’ith, for 
the battle to the death! 

The silent Spe’lar listened and watched, as a Terran played his 
intrepretation of their legend, on an instrument designed for and 
by them. The makers had never thought alien hands would finger 
the wind-driven arofloj — it was made for a fourteen-fingered 

In six years, Carl had come to know the instrument well. He 
had also come to know the Spe’lar — not as well — but better than 
before. He knew of their arrogance, their loftiness, their intent- 
ness of purpose. Mostly, he knew Theem. Theem had taught him, 
not only of the instrument, but of the music, of the complex and 
intricate music, music they loved — almost worshipped. He could 
well understand their feelings of superiority regarding it. 

And in Theem’s case, his absolute dedication to the wonderful 
music of Cutron. 

Two hundred experts on that music now sat silently in the dim 
auditorium, listening, watching, wondering. 

And waiting. 

Just as his father had. 

"You are Theem, the Lauren?” Carl had asked, without much 
enthusiasm. He was almost too depressed to be nervous — almost. 

The taller being lowered his eyelids. "I am.” 

"I want to learn the arofloj.” 

Theem smiled. Unlike some others, he was too kind, too polite 
to laugh aloud. 

Carl’s hopes, low at best, dropped even lower. 



"I see,” Theem finally said. "You are a musician?” 

"On my world, yes.” 

"Why would you wish to learn the arofloj? Those of your stock 
are not constructed to play it — or fully appreciate it.” 

Carl looked at his tan-leather flute case, battered from much 
use, then back up at Theem. At two-and-a-half meters, the Spe’lar 
was much taller than the human. 

"Because, I — I have to!” God, he was so very tired and discour- 

There was a long pause. Carl could almost see the other’s mind 
working; considering, rejecting . . . 

"What are you called?” 

"My name is . . . Carl Viren.” 

Theem blinked, and turned his head slightly, as if searching for 
a memory. "I heard once of a Terran musician named Viren. . . .” 

"My father,” Carl said flatly. Damn! Even here. . . ! 

There was another forever pause. Then, "Come in.” 

Carl’s breath caught. Invited inside! He fought to maintain con- 
trol of himself 

The interior of the house was strange. There were things com- 
mon to all men, even to those of such genetically-altered stock as 
the Spe’lar, of course, but there were many things whose function 
he did not know. In his month on this world, it was the first time 
he’d been invited inside a private residence. 

Theem led him to a large and empty room, bare except for sev- 
eral small cushions on the floor, placed near the room’s center. 
They sat. 

He nodded at Carl’s case. "Play something for me.” 

Carl’s heart thudded and leaped, his pulse zoomed. A dozen 
times he’d been turned away from the doors of Laurens — music 
teachers — those who considered his request an affront, a bad joke. 
Not only had this one invited him in, he was asking Carl to play! 
Nervousness flared in his guts like a fire. 

Quickly, he assembled the three sections of his flute and blew 
the scales to show its range. When he finished, Theem lowered his 
eyelids once again, a signal to begin. 

Carefully, Carl started with a simple piece, Pessard’s Spanish 
Dance in E Minor, to warm up. Then he moved to a more difficult 
selection, Chaminade’s Concertino, Opus 107. As he played, he be- 
came twined with the music, his worry about impressing the 
Spe’lar gone. This was real, the music; everything else was only a 
shadow, a dream. 



Somewhen, he found himself wrapped in Pan’s Serenade to 
Spring, amid the trees in the bright glade. Then came Briccialdi’s 
II Vento. He made no conscious choices — the pieces flowed without 
rational thought, churned from emotion. 

Centuries later — eons, more — he found himself balanced on the 
lip of the Grand Canyon, blowing the final, wailing notes of 
Thunder Morning in A, Fremaux’s classic study — and the most 
difficult piece in his repertoire. Playing the haunting melody, he 
ran through the cross-fingering and trills, showing the control 
which had made him the best flutist on Earth — perhaps the 
second-best to have ever lived. 

He finished, looked up; and as if coming out of a trance, he re- 
membered where he was. 

Theem the Lauren sat silently for a time, his eyes closed. Fi- 
nally, he sighed, a deep-chested sound, full of some emotion Carl 
didn’t recognize. 

"How old are you?” The Spe’lar asked quietly. 

"My age would equal about twenty of Cutron’s cycles.” 

"A child! And yet — !” He sighed again, and looked at Carl’s 
hands, at the knuckles white from their pressure on the flute. 
"You seem to play your instrument well, though I know little of 
it; however, the arofloj is a much more complex device. You could 
not even begin with only ten fingers. . . .” 

Carl nodded. "That could be . . . changed.” 

Theem rubbed at his eyes with long fingers. "No stock has ever 
learned to master the arofloj except Spe’lar.” 

"I know.” 

"There are many among us who do not believe any other than 
Spe’lar can learn to play our music.” He seemed angry. 

Carl hesitated a moment. "And you?” 

"I — I— was never of the First Rank — only the Second. We have 
a saying: Those who can do; those who can’t — ” 

" — I’ve heard it,” Carl finished. 

"Perhaps it is true. But if I am only to be a Lauren — a 
teacher — I will be the best one I can be. 

"My skill as a player is not important — only the music is. I care 
not if a fish can play — provided he plays well.” 

Carl twisted the flute in his hands, but said nothing. 

"Your father — he was very good?” 

Carl held up the flute. "He was the greatest master of this who 
ever lived.” He sighed, and admitted something aloud he’d never 
said before. "Much better than I could ever be.” He knew he 



sounded bitter. 

Theem nodded. "I see.” 

After a brief moment of infinity, both looked at each other, pul- 
ling themselves away from their vastly different, yet similar 

Both smiled at the same time. 

Carl attacked the difficult jamn-vass section of the composition, 
knowing it was where his fingering would show the slightest hesi- 
tation, the smallest error. The shifts from flat-to-sharp would 
have to be struck perfectly, otherwise the tune would shriek at 
the ears. And the ears of his audience were more sensitive than a 
basic human’s; they would detect the tiniest slip in the melody. 

Without warning, ThuJI the Hero stumbled suddenly upon the 
Fn’ithl The Fn’ith cried, a shrill and vicious caw of rage! Thull 
bellowed bis own war-yell, and attacked — ! 

"How do they feel?” 

Carl had looked at his arms, pale from the spray-on bandages, 
then up at the Medic. "Like they’ve been dipped in boiling lead.” 

"Good! No paresthesia! I was worried some of the peripheral 
nerves would have to be re-grafted. Obviously, they’ve regener- 

"How long — ?” 

" — before you can use them?” The doctor grinned. "You can pick 
up small objects in a week or two, with practice. The kind of con- 
trol you want, well, that will take months — years, maybe — if it’s 
possible at all.” He shrugged. 

"It’s possible,” Carl said. He lifted his hands up to look at the 
two new fingers on each one. Metal-and-plastic these were, pow- 
ered by a nuclear pack built into a housing on his chest-wall. 
Odd, how the new fingers with their hand and wrist extensions 
didn’t really look that much out of proportion. He grinned, re- 
membering the old joke: yeah, but on me it looks good! 

He wiggled his real fingers experimentally. Some pain in 
them — nothing compared to that in his forearms. With concentra- 
tion, he managed to clench the muscles in his chest which oper- 
ated the new waldoes. There was a slight tremor in the units, 
generated from the nerve-stim-implants in his pectorals and in- 

They worked! Not well, not yet, but they worked! 

So it would take a while. It was just a matter of time and effort. 



He had plenty of both. 


He began holding back air with every breath, saving it by 
hyperventilating. He would need it, for the longest single passage 
lay just ahead. He would have to pipe for well over a minute, cov- 
ering notes from the too-high C, down through almost four oc- 
taves to big G, and there was going to be one hell of an oxygen 
debt incurred — some of those notes would have to be blown hard. 

ThuJ] the Hero was wounded! He sprawled fractured on the 
ground! The Fn’ith squealed with joy, smirked with glee, and 
moved in for the kill! But wait — it was a trick! ThuJI wasn’t as 
badly injured as he pretended to be! When the Fn’ith moved in, 
ThuJ] dropped his sword and grabbed the beast, and they rolled 
on the mossy ground together! The very earth seemed to 
shake. . . ! 

During a lull, almost a resting point before the dreaded phras- 
ing, Carl caught a glimpse of something, over there, to his right. 
In the semi-darkness, a flash of light stabbed at him. For a mo- 
ment, he had the wild idea it was another player, hoisting an 
arofloj, about to join in. 

A half-second later, his mind made the proper connections, and 
his memory gave him the true picture: the flash was not from an 
arofloj — it was from a dartspitter! So Theem was right! There 
were those who felt that threatened. 

What could he do? Nothing — not and keep playing. There was 
nothing to do but stop — and he’d sooner they kill him than do 

He’d never know if that happened — but neither would anyone 
else. It would be a partial victory at least. 

Anything was better than quitting — failing. To go down trying 
was no disgrace. 

Was it that important to them, important enough to kill? He 
knew them, he thought, but not well enough. But then, he was 
merely a Terran, an alien on this world. . . . 

In Cutron’s thin air, almost any effort had winded him. Now, 
under the dim red sun, as the sweat poured from his gasping 
body, he wondered for the hundredth time if the price he was pay- 
ing was worth the goal. After running nearly five kilometers in 
the insufficient and cold air, he couldn’t move any more. 

Memory of Theem’s voice stirred him. He could almost see his 

SOLO 109 

large, violet eyes looking down on him. "You will have to compen- 
sate for your decreased lung capacity by exercise. When you can 
run twenty kilometers, you should have enough wind to begin.” 

God! He couldn’t go on! 

Somehow, he managed to drag himself to his feet, to take sev- 
eral faltering steps before he collapsed once again. His brain 
swam with carbon dioxide; each muscle was a vast ache, his body 
knotted with pain. 

Twenty kilometers! It would take forever! 

Suck the air, dammit, to hell with the dartspitter! The center- 
piece approaches, and it must be observed correctly! This is where 
I can’t fail — for them, for Theem, for me — for him. 

Carl played on, and the battle between Thull and the terrible 
Fn’ith rag^ on . . . 

The weight of his fingers had been too much; he couldn’t lift 
them without pain, couldn’t move them without the greatest ef- 
fort. His arms cramped, his chest knotted, his nerves burned. He 
couldn’t continue, he couldn’t — 

"Again,” Theem said. 

"Lauren, I — I — ” he stopped. 


Carl looked up at Theem’s face, and remembered. 

"I — never mind!” 

He began again. His fingers slipped and dragged over the 
thirty-four keys, pressing either too hard or too soft, causing the 
tune to slip, to waver, to hum, to stream off-key; now sharp, now 
flat, now gone completely. . . . 

But he kept playing, doggedly, the desire to overcome his inep- 
titude driving him, pushing him. A million years later, he 

Theem never hesitated. "Again.” 

Almost mindless now, Carl obeyed. 

He remembered his father, forcing him to play scales, chromatic 
and odd notes at extreme ranges, notes he’d likely seldom use, if 

You’ll never get it, Adolph Viren had said. You have your 
mother’s hands — the slut! Too stubby, too gross, just as hers! 

And later, when he was alone, in the dark, practicing silently, 
by feel, just the fingering, the tears ran down his face. 

His mother’s hands had been good enough to hold him when 
110 SOLO 

he’d cried, soft enough to pet away his nightmares in the sweaty 
night, strong enough to stay his father’s intended beating for 
some real or imagined infraction of his iron rules. 

His mother’s hands! They’d be good enough for this! 

He finished the piece, and looked at Theem. 


Carl sighed. Theem wasn’t like his father. He didn’t try to mold 
him into something in which he had no choice. He wanted only to 
teach, to pass on the music, the beautiful, important music! He 
drew real pleasure from seeing others, watching Carl learn. Carl 
knew Theem even hoped he’d be better than his teacher. 

Something his father had never done. 

The Fn’ith screamed and screamed, and raked its hideous claws 
at the smaller Spe’lar. Thull only grinned, then swung the recov- 
ered sword easily in his seven-fingered hands, chopping, cutting, 
slicing away at the black-scaled monster. . . . 

With as much air as his hyperinflated lungs could hold, Carl 
stretched, pumped, compressed, and set for the intricate pac- 
ing — 

The Fn’ith leaped, massive ebony claws outstretched, grasping! 
Thull stood his ground — nay — ^he jumped forward, snarling his 
own rage . . . ! 

And Carl began the run, lost totally now in the sound and bat- 
tle, hearing nothing else, seeing nothing else, existing only to 
play, to sing the saga! He was lungs and fingers and lips, and 
nothing else. ... 

"No other off-worlder has ever done as well as you have with 
the arofloj,” Theem said. "A number have tried.” 

Carl said nothing. 

"Yet you still have a long path to travel before you can be con- 
sidered an expert.” 

Carl nodded. 

"And, in the event you do succeed in learning more than basic 
rudiments of the instrument, there may be . . . other problems.” 

"Oh?” That surprised him. 

Theem stood and slowlv walked away from the practice cush- 
ions to the room’s small and high window. He clasped his hands 
behind his back, the thin fingers twining about his skinny wrists. 
He looked silently through the window for a moment before he 



"I have spoken to you of those among us who feel the arofloj is 
an instrmnent which should be kept . . . pure. While they say they 
don’t believe any other than Spe’lar can learn to play it, they also 
don’t believe any should be allowed to try.” 

"I see.” 

"I don’t think you do.” He turned from the window to face Carl. 
"/ know you can learn! You can bring new life to our music! And 
if one Terran can . . .” He shook his head. "I have great pride in 
you — in myself for being able to teach you. However . . . 

"If certain of my . . . brothers knew you were capable of playing 
the arofloj with any real skill, they might be moved to . . . action.” 


"You would be a threat to their beliefs, a lump in their dogma. 
It could be dangerous. This is why 1 have kept your progress se- 

Theem seemed to be selecting his words carefully. Carl did the 
same. "I think I understand. Do you think I should quit?” 

"No! I mean — ah — I think you should know there are risks. The 
choice must be yours. There are other things in life than playing 
the arofloj.” 

Carl sat quietly for a few seconds, then smiled up at his 
teacher. "We both know better than that, don’t we?” 

Theem’s face lit with its own broad smile. "Good! I expected no 
less, but I had to — never mind. That aside, today, we attack the 
roll-fingering . . .” 

His wind was gone, but there were notes left to be sounded. He 
could feel the audience growing toward him, like a plant, waiting, 
listening intently. This was where he would fail! Then they could 
sit back smugly; they could laugh inwardly and congratulate 
themselves. "Of course I didn’t think he could do it! A Terran? 
Don’t be absurd!” 

"I knew you couldn’t do it, either,” his father’s voice seemed to 
drone in his mind. 

"The hell I can’t!” From somewhere, Carl found a reserve, a few 
minims of stale air, a third or fourth wind that shouldn’t be 
there — but was. His heart pounded in his ears and wrists and 
neck, his lungs burned, the CO 2 made him dizzy, his sight started 
to go— 

— but he kept playing! 

Ten notes left! Six! God, oh God, two! There, there was the rest, 
the stop, he could finally inhale. . . ! 



"You will, of course, improve.” Theem’s voice had been smooth, 
but his tone was high and edgy. 

"That’s not what I mean! Will I be better in a month? Six 

"Naturally, I would expect — ” 


"No,” he said, with a sigh. "No big jumps from now on. You’ll 
get better, but only with constant practice, over a long time. . . .” 

"Then I want a recital. Now.” 

Theem closed his eyes, then opened them slowly. "It will be ar- 

Carl stared at his teacher, surprised. He’d agreed much too 
quickly. He’d expected at least a token argument — 

Slowly, awareness dawned. "Just out of curiosity, how long 
have I been ready?” 

Theem shrugged. "Two months, perhaps three.” 

"And you didn’t tell me!” 

"You had to know. Besides, I’ve become . . . fond of you. I was in 
no hurry to risk having my star pupil vanish when it became 
known he was capable of playing the arofloj.” 

"I’m not worried about that.” 

"You should be,” Theem shrugged again. "I am.” 

The music slowed to a comfortable walk, and the worst was 
over. He still wasn’t home free — he could make a stupid error, 
ruin the ending and the whole thing — but it was easier, now. He 
had vindicated Theem; he had accomplished something no other 
human had done — he had shown his father — with his short, use- 
less fingers and bits of self-actuated machinery, he had done it. 

ThuIJ bad slain the Fn’ith! Now, be dragged the carcass home, 
to show his fellow Spe’lar — they were free of the threat! 

Carl risked a look at the audience, at the spot where he’d seen 
the gleam of the dartspitter. It wouldn’t matter now — 

— but wait! 

Where the potential assassin had stood, flattened against the 
kworl-wood wall in the shadows — there was Theem. And in his 
hands was the deadly tube. 

Theem had taken the assassin. He couldn’t use his lips, but the 
grin loomed big in Carl’s mind. Theem had done it. Another risk, 
taken for his pupil, added to the years he’d risked. 

It was almost over. If he could just hang on, there was only one 

SOLO 113 

more section that was the least bit difficult, and it was nothing 
compared to what had gone before. 

All he had to do was coast — 

— No! That wasn’t the way! He had to take the risk, he had to 
try the thing he’d practiced alone, away from Theem’s watchful 
eye. To do less would be cowardly. He owed it to Theem, and he 
owed it to himself. This will be for you, mother. I will finish in 
grand style — or I’ll screw it up completely! 

When the final three-second pause came, just before the coda, 
he’d decided. He lifted and spread all his fingers, except the sup- 
porting thumbs, so the audience could see each digit. Quickly and 
deliberately, he folded the four waldo fingers shut — leaving only 
his own real fingers to play the ending. 

The audience gasped, as one being. 

Ten fingers, they’d be thinking. It can’t be done! 

His joints burned and hurt, the nails on each finger grew 
dead-white, each tendon ached. Carl stretched, he forced his fin- 
gers into a blur over the keys to the end of the saga. 

TbuII arrived home with the dead Fn’ith — there was a cheer 
from his fellows as they saw the body — 

— it mixed perfectly with the cheer Carl heard when he re- 
moved the arofloj from his lips and somehow stood and bowed to 
the assembled Spe’lar. Amid the noise, he raised the arofloj in si- 
lent salute to Theem — and in triumph to his long-dead father. 

Tomorrow, he would see the notices from the critics. He would 
read the tiny details they picked to assess his performance. Oh, he 
wasn’t the greatest player on Cutron by any means! The critics 
would be quick to point that out. A credit to his teacher, for cer- 
tain. Adequate, but not spectacular, aside from that sophomoric 
gesture near the end. . . . 

Those things wouldn’t matter. He’d been accepted! He’d done 
something no other man had done — ^they didn’t care that he was 
human, most of them — they cared only for the music. 

He was, the critics would point out, certainly no threat to the 

Carl would grin when he read that, and he’d look down at his 
stubby fingers with their artificial cousins — his mother’s hands — 
and he’d laugh aloud. 

Yet, he’d say, mostly to himself, but partially to a dead man. 






by John M. Ford 

art: Freff 

This tale touches on several of the 
author’s ( and the editor’s, for that 
matter) weaknesses, for it’s a pastiche 
of a pastiche, ending in the most 
complex horrid pun we’ve yet printed. 


"Murder or suicide. Doctor?” 

B. Watson Goodwin shifted in his chair and immediately wished 
he’d kept his mouth shut. But the man he had spoken to seemed not 
to notice; he kept on shuffling through the pile of papers and pho- 
tographs on his desk, pausing now and again to adjust the thick 
spectacles that rode low on his beaklike nose. 

Goodwin did not feel like a Field Operative of Earthsystem Se- 
curity Forces, though that was what he was. The role of Starcop 
bothered him. He didn’t feel big enough for it. Now he was in the 
company of the man reputed to be Earth’s greatest authority on 
extraterrestrial planets, and he felt very small indeed. 

Dr. Willkie Moon, Earth’s greatest and so forth, pushed his glasses 
up his nose once more — a gesture Goodwin now knew to be 
futile — and sat back in his chair. "Murder?” he said. "A man is 
found dead, on a tiny planet where he is the only living being, and 
you ask me if it is murder?” 

Goodwin cleared his throat, and felt himself shrink another few 
centimeters. "Well, ordinarily. Doctor Moon — of course not. But there 
is the matter of the recording device, on Harfleur’s night side.” 

"The recording device did nothing on the night side?” 

"Actually, Doctor, it did, but — if you’ll read that page of the re- 
port — ” 

"Never mind,” said Dr. Moon, with a considerable sigh. "I have 
read it. What I would like you to do is summarize the events in 
your own words.” 

"Very well. Doctor.” Goodwin looked around Dr. Moon’s lodgings, 
trying to settle his nerves. He was surrounded by the artifacts that 
every professor of long tenure acquires: dozens of books, each re- 
printing an article Dr. Moon had written in his freshman year; one 
hundred and forty-five pipes of various descriptions, each one 
matched to a cardigan sweater with patches on the elbows; a group 
portrait of the professors who had officiated at Dr. Moon’s orals, 
with large red crosses drawn over those who had died. It was said 
that Dr. Moon had not left this room in the past twenty-two years. 
It was true that the rug badly needed vacuuming, but it wasn’t that 

Goodwin finally gathered his chi and began: 

"Harfleur, Meade’s World, is a barren and airless rock some two 
thousand kilometers in diameter. It appears to be rather similar in 
type to Earth’s Moon — uh, satellite — ” 

"I know what the thing’s called,” said Dr. Moon. "Go on.” 

"Uh — so it was decided to do a long-term examination, in light of 


the considerable mineral wealth extracted from our own Moon. 

"A string of high-density disc recorders was established around 
Harfleur’s surface, each capable of storing three months’ environ- 
mental data before the disk needed replacing. The recorders are 
fully automated and highly reliable. However, we provided one hu- 
man backup; a geologist named Bruce Dee. Dee was given a com- 
plete pressurized station, with full recreation facilities and a triple- 
redundant communication system with Earth.” 

"Only one man?” 

"Dee was a loner by nature. We’ve found that two-person teams — of 
whatever kind — wind up hating each other within a few weeks. So 
if we can’t justify the expense of a full team, we send one solitary 
type. It’s worked just fine.” 

"Until now.” 

"Until now. About two weeks ago the winter season was ending 
on Harfleur — there are no real seasons, of course; that’s just what 
we call the period it spends at aphelion. It was time to pick up a set 
of discs and resupply Dee’s station. 

"We found Bruce Dee slumped over one of the recorders, dead. 
His suit was intact, but the heating system was completely off. He 
appears to have died of freezing.” 

"I assume his energy supply was intact.” 

"The suits are plutonium-fueled, and the power pile was operating 
normally. Even if it had not been, his surface-scooter was less than 
thirty meters away, and it has an auxiliary power socket for such 

Dr. Moon picked up a photograph. It showed a pressure-suited 
figure lying face-down on something like a two-meter metal spider; 
the recording station. One of the man’s gloved hands was tight on 
the recorder’s sampling claw. 

"No,” said the extraterrologist, "it does not have the look of sui- 
cide. But . . . murder? By whom, and for what?” 

"We don’t know. Doctor. But we do know this: Harfleur is com- 
pletely lifeless, as nineteen of the twenty recorders we planted at- 
test. But the twentieth — the one where Bruce Dee died — ” 

" 'Reports presence of organic molecules.’ Very interesting.” Dr. 
Moon put the report down. "So you feel that perhaps some myste- 
riously hidden native of the planet killed Mr. Dee by some means 
unknown to science.” 

"Not necessarily! I mean ... I have a hypothesis.” 

"Tell me.” 

"It could have been someone trying to tamper with the recorders, 

to make us lose interest in the planet — then move in himself and 
mine the place out.” 

"An excellent hypothesis.” 

Goodwin grew four meters in an instant. 

"Requiring only the presence of a claim-jumper who can walk 
around without a pressure suit.” 

Goodwin shrank five meters. 

"I wonder — I wonder. Would you do something for me, Mr. Good- 

"Certainly, Dr. Moon. And call me Watson, please.” 

"Only if I must. Have ESF scrape the late Mr. Dee’s left suit 
glove — the one he was gripping the sampling claw with. And this 
photograph, of the interior of Mr. Dee’s quarters — have it blown up 
as large as you possibly can. One more thing. Get me the complete 
technical print-out from the recorder in question — no summaries, 
no condensations.” 

"At once. Doctor. Would you care to come with me to the lab? It’ll 
save some time.” 

"Oh, no, no. It’s said that I haven’t left this room in twenty-two 

Goodwin smiled as he stood to go. There was no accounting for 
the eccentricities of the true genius. 

Dr. Moon said, "Lost my key then, actually. Too cheap to have 
the locks changed.” 

Dr. Moon finished his perusal of the new evidence. "Aha! Look 
here, Watson; I have it!” 

"Have what?” 

"Your invisible alien attacker, of course. Here he is, captured 
upon this photograph.” 


"In the station waste can. Look closely.” 

"I see a bottle.” 

"Watson, you see, but you do not — oh, forget it. Indeed it is a 
bottle, Watson; a bottle that once held Chateau Ganymede ’86, fer- 
mented from subsurface fungi on Jupiter’s moon, a vile concoction. 
I keep mine in a radioactive-ash-scuttle. There is your murderer.” 

"You mean Bruce Dee was drunk.” 

"As the proverbial Tau Cetan, Watson. Now imagine, as I recon- 
struct our geologist’s last moments on Earth — er, Harfleur. Con- 
sumed with a loneliness he has never before felt, surrounded by the 
rocks he once felt to be his dearest friends. Dee takes to drink. He 


soon develops a need for the stuff at every moment of crisis. 

"Now, he is going out to inspect the recorders he hates, which 
pick over the rocks he hates, upon the worldlet he hates. He is going 
out upon — ” Dr. Moon went to the shelf, took down a small ornately- 
bound book. On the flyleaf was an autograph, facing the title The 
Dynamics of an Asteroid. " — out upon darkside, by my calculations. 
And before he enters that gloom, he must have a drink. But he is 
already wearing his pressure suit! 

"No matter to him, such is his need. He uncorks the bottle with 
his gloved hands and, since he is becoming uncomfortable in the 
suit inside his climate-controlled outpost, he switches off its internal 

"And now, full of Ganymedan courage, he leaves his 
shelter — forgetting to turn his heater on again; for he is fortified 
against the cold by the effects of too much spirit of toadstool. 

"But the heat must fail, Watson; and it does, but he notices too 
late. And chilled, intoxicated, he falls against the recorder, clutch- 
ing vainly at its sampling claw with this glove.” Dr. Moon waved 
the silver gauntlet. 

"But the organic matter — ” 

"From the glove, Watson. You made the mistake of reading only 
the summarized chromatography report, not the complete one. And 
you did not have my trained eye. I can identify four hundred vari- 
eties of tobacco, two hundred and seven imprints of finger, tentacle 
or filament, and three hundred and eighty-two types of wine cork, 
even when in bits too small to see with the naked eye.” 

"But,” gasped Goodwin, "how was the content of our winter’s disc 
made a spurious summary by this scum of cork?” 

"It was elementally adhered, Watson.” 



(from page 98) 

The description said that Mrs. Dracula watched her husband in 
a mirror. As every reader knows, or should know, vampires don’t 
have mirror reflections. 





by Barry B. Longyear 

art: Vincent Di Fate 


The author, after the usual variety of 
jobs that seem characteristic of an 
author’s formative years, has 
settled down to write full time. 

Physically, Mr. Longyear 
is sturdy but not plump; in person 
he’s cheerful, easily moved to laughter; 
and his writing output is an almost 
frightening 10 to 20 pages a day, 
when the muse is co-operating. 

The Dracon’s three-fingered hands flexed. In the thing’s yellow 
eyes I could read the desire to either have those fingers around a 
weapon or my throat. As I flexed my own fingers, I knew it read 
the same in my eyes. 

'Trkmaan!” the thing spat. 

"You piece of Drac slime.” I brought my hands up in front of my 
chest and waved the thing on. "Come on, Drac; come and get it.” 

'Trkmaan vaa, koruum su!” 

"Are you going to talk, or fight? Come on!” I could feel the spray 
from the sea behind me — a boiling madhouse of white-capped 
breakers that threatened to swallow me as it had my fighter. 
I had ridden my ship in. The Drac had ejected when its own 
fighter had caught one in the upper atmosphere, but not before 
crippling my power plant. I was exhausted from swimming to the 
grey, rocky beach and pulling myself to safety. Behind the Drac, 
among the rocks on the otherwise barren hill, I could see its ejec- 
tion capsule. Far above us, its people and mine were still at it, 
slugging out the possession of an uninhabited comer of nowhere. 
The Drac just stood there and I went over the phrase taught us in 
training — a phrase calculated to drive any Drac into a frenzy. 
"Kiz da yuomeen, Shizumaat!” Meaning: Shizumaat, the most re- 
vered Drac philosopher, eats kiz excrement. Something on the 
level of stuffing a Moslem full of pork. 

The Drac opened its mouth in horror, then closed it as anger 
literally changed its color from jellow to reddish-brown. 
'Trkmann, yaa stupid Mickey Mouse is! ’ 

I had taken an oath to fight and die over many things, but that 
venerable rodent didn’t happen to be one of them. I laughed, and 
continued laughing until the guffaws in combination with my 
exhaustion forced me to my knees. I forced open my eyes to keep 



track of my enemy. The Drac was running toward the high 
ground, away from me and the sea. I half-turned toward the sea 
and caught a glimpse of a million tons of water just before they 
fell on me, knocking me unconscious. 

"Kiz da yuomeen, Irkmann, mV’ 

My eyes were gritty with sand and stung with salt, but some 
part of my awareness pointed out: "Hey, you’re alive.” I reached 
to wipe the sand from my eyes and found my hands bound. A 
straight metal rod had been run through my sleeves and my 
wrists tied to it. As my tears cleared the sand from my eyes, I 
could see the Drac sitting on a smooth black boulder looking at 
me. It must have pulled me out of the drink. "Thanks, toad face. 
What’s with the bondage?” 


I tried waving my arms and wound up giving an impression of 
an atmospheric fighter dipping its wings. "Untie me, you Drac 
slime!” I was seated on the sand, my back against a rock. 

The Drac smiled, exposing the upper and lower mandibles that 
looked human — except that instead of separate teeth, they were 
solid. "Eh, m, Irkmaan.” It stood, walked over to me and checked 
my bonds. 

"Untie me!” 

The smile disappeared. "Ne!” It pointed at me with a yellow 
finger. "Kos son va?” 

"I don’t speak Drac, toad face. You speak Esper or English?” 

The Drac delivered a very human-looking shrug, then pointed 
at its own chest. "Kos va son Jeriba Shigan.” It pointed again at 
me. "Kos son va?” 

"Davidge. My name is Willis E. Davidge.” 


I tried my tongue on the unfamiliar syllables. "Kos va son Wil- 
lis Davidge.” 

"Eh.” Jeriba Shigan nodded, then motioned with its fingers. 
"Dasu, Davidge.” 

"Same to you, Jerry.” 

"Dasu, dasu!” Jeriba began sounding a little impatient. I 
shrugged as best I could. The Drac bent over and grabbed the 
front of my jump suit with both hands and pulled me to my feet. 
"Dasu, dasu, kizlode!” 

"All right! So dasu is 'get up.’ What’s a kizlodeT’ 

Jerry laughed. "Gavey 'kiz’?” 



"Yeah, Igavey.” 

Jerry pointed at its head. "Lode.” It pointed at my head. "Kiz- 
lode, gavey?” 

I got it, then swung my arms around, catching Jerry upside its 
head with the metal rod. The Drac stumbled back against a rock, 
looking surprised. It raised a hand to its head and withdrew it 
covered with that pale pus that Dracs think is blood. It looked at 
me with murder in its eyes. "Gefh! Nu Gefh, Davidge!” 

"Come and get it, Jerry, you kizlode sonafabitch!” 

Jerry dived at me and I tried to catch it again with the rod, but 
the Drac caught my right wrist in both hands and, using the 
momentum of my swing, whirled me around, slamming my back 
against another rock. Just as I was getting back my breath, Jerry 
picked up a small boulder and came at me with every intention of 
turning my melon into pulp. With my back against the rock, I 
lifted a foot and kicked the Drac in the midsection, knocking it to 
the sand. I ran up, ready to stomp Jerry’s melon, but he pointed 
behind me. I turned and saw another tidal wave gathering steam, 
and heading our way. "Kiz!” Jerry got to its feet and scampered 
for the high ground with me following close behind. 

With the roar of the wave at our backs, we weaved among the 
water- and sand-ground, black boulders, until we reached Jerry’s 
ejection capsule. The Drac stopped, put its shoulder to the egg- 
shaped contraption, and began rolling it uphill. I could see Jerry’s 
point. The capsule contained all of the survival equipment and 
food either of us knew about. "Jerry!” I shouted above the rumble 
of the fast approaching wave. "Pull out this damn rod and I’ll 
help!” The Drac frowned at me. "The rod, kizlode, pull it out!” I 
cocked my head toward my outstretched arm. 

Jerry placed a rock beneath the capsule to keep it from rolling 
back, then quickly untied my wrists and pulled out the rod. Both 
of us put our shoulders to the capsule, and we quickly rolled it to 
higher ground. The wave hit and climbed rapidly up the slope 
until it came up to our chests. The capsule bobbed like a cork, and 
it was all we could do to keep control of the thing until the water 
receded, wedging the capsule between three big boulders. I stood 
there, puffing. 

Jerry dropped to the sand, its back against one of the boulders, 
and watched the water rush back out to sea. "Magasienna!” 

"You said it, brother.” I sank down next to the Drac; we agreed 
by eye to a temporary truce, and promptly passed out. 



My eyes opened on a sky boiling with blacks and greys. Letting 
my head loll over on my left shoulder, I checked out the Drac. It 
was still out. First, I thought that this would be the perfect time 
to get the drop on Jerry. Second, I thought about how silly our 
insignificant scrap seemed compared to the insanity of the sea 
that surrounded us. Why hadn’t the rescue team come? Did the 
Dracon fleet wipe us out? Why hadn’t the Dracs come to pick up 
Jerry? Did they wipe out each other? I didn’t even know where I 
was. An island. I had seen that much coming in, but where and in 
relation to what? Fyrine IV: the planet didn’t even rate a name, 
but was important enough to die over. 

With an effort, I struggled to my feet. Jerry opened its eyes and 
quickly pushed itself to a defensive crouching position. I waved 
my hand and shook my head. "Ease off, Jerry. I’m just going to 
look around.” I turned my back on it and trudged off between the 
boulders. I walked uphill for a few minutes until I reached level 

It was an island, all right, and not a very big one. By eyeball 
estimation, height from sea level was only eighty meters, while 
the island itself was about two kilometers long and less than half 
that wide. The wind whipping my jump suit against my body was 
at least drying it out, but as I looked around at the smooth- 
ground boulders on top of the rise, I realized that Jerry and I 
could expect higger waves than the few puny ones we had seen. 

A rock clattered behind me and I turned to see Jerry climbing 
up the slope. When it reached the top, the Drac looked around. I 
squatted next to one of the boulders and passed my hand over it 
to indicate the smoothness, then I pointed toward the sea. Jerry 
nodded. "Ae, Gavey.” It pointed downhill toward the capsule, then 
to where we stood. "Echey masu, nasesay.” 

I frowned, then pointed at the capsule. "Nasesay? The capsule?” 

"Ae, capsule nasesay. Echey masu.” Jerry pointed at its feet. 

I shook my head. "Jerry, if you gavey how these rocks got 
smooth,” I pointed at one, "then you gavey that masking the 
nasesay up here isn’t going to do a damned bit of good.” I made a 
sweeping up and down movement with my hands. "Waves.” I 
pointed at the sea below. "Waves, up here”; I pointed to where we 
stood. "Waves, ecAey.” 

"Ae, gavey.” Jerry looked around the top of the rise, then rub- 
bed the side of its face. The Drac squatted next to some small 
rocks and began piling one on top of another. "Viga, Davidge.” 



I squatted next to it and watched while its nimble fingers con- 
structed a circle of stones that quickly grew into a doll-house- 
sized arena. Jerry stuck one of its fingers in the center of the cir- 
cle. "Echey, nasesay.” 

The days on Fyrine IV seemed to be three times longer than 
any I had seen on any other habitable planet. I use the designa- 
tion 'habitable’ with reservations. It took us most of the first day 
to painfully roll Jerry’s nasesay up to the top of the rise. The 
night was too black to work and was bone-cracking cold. We re- 
moved the couch from the capsule, which made just enough room 
for both of us to fit inside. The body heat warmed things up a bit; 
and we killed time between sleeping, nibbling on Jerry’s supply of 
ration bars (they teste a bit like fish mixed with chedder cheese), 
and trying to come to some agreement about language. 






The Drac laughed. "Lode.” 

"Ho, ho, very fimny.” 

"Ho, ho.” 

At dawn on the second day, we rolled and pushed the capsule 
into the center of the rise and wedged it between two large rocks, 
one of which had an overhang that we hoped would hold down the 
capsule when one of those big soakers hit. Around the rocks and 
capsule, we laid a foundation of large stones and filled in the 
cracks with smaller stones. By the time the wall was knee high, 
we discovered that building with those smooth, round stones and 
no mortar wasn’t going to work. After some experimentation, we 
figured out how to break the stones to give us flat sides with 
which to work. It’s done by picking up one stone and slamming it 
down on top of another. We took turns, one slamming and one 
building. The stone was almost a volcanic glass, and we also took 
turns extracting rock splinters from each other. It took nine of 
those endless days and nights to complete the walls, during which 
waves came close many times and once washed us ankle deep. For 
six of those nine days, it rained. The capsule’s survival equipment 
included a plastic blanket, and that became our roof. It sagged in 
at the center, and the hole we put in it there allowed the water to 



run out, keeping us almost dry and giving us a supply of fresh 
water. If a wave of any determination came along, we could kiss 
the roof goodbye; but we both had confidence in the walls, which 
were almost two meters thick at the bottom and at least a meter 
thick at the top. 

After we finished, we sat inside and admired oiu* work for about 
an hour, until it dawned on us that we had just worked ourselves 
out of jobs. "What now, Jerry?” 


"What do we do now?” 

"Now wait, we.” The Drac shrugged. "Else what, ne?” 

I nodded. "Gavey.” I got to my feet and walked to the passage- 
way we had built. With no wood for a door, where the walls would 
have met, we bent one out and extended it about three meters 
around the other wall with the opening away from the prevailing 
winds. The never-ending winds were still at it, but the rain had 
stopped. The shack wasn’t much to look at, but looking at it stuck 
there in the center of that deserted island made me feel good. As 
Shizumaat observed: "Intelligent life making its stand against the 
universe.” Or, at least, that’s the sense I could make out of Jerry’s 
hamburger of English. I shrugged and picked up a sharp splinter 
of stone and made another m2u*k in the large standing rock that 
served as my log. Ten scratches in all, and under the seventh, a 
small 'x’ to indicate the big wave that just covered the top of the 

I threw down the splinter. "Damn, I hate this place!” 

"Ess?” Jerry’s head poked around the edge of the opening. "Who 
talking at, Davidge?” 

I glared at the Drac, then waved my hand at it. "Nobody.” 

"Ess va, 'nobody’?” 

"Nobody. Nothing.” 

"Ne gavey, Davidge.” 

I poked at my chest with my finger. "Me! I’m talking to myself! 
You gavey that stuff, toad face!” 

Jerry shook its head. "Davidge, now I sleep. Talk not so much 
nobody, ne?” It disappeared back into the opening. 

"And so’s your mother!” I turned and walked down the slope. 
Except, strictly speaking, toad face, you don’t have a mother — or 
father. "If you had your choice, who would you like to be trapped 
on a desert island with?” I wondered if anyone ever picked a wet 
freezing corner of Hell shacked up with a hermaphrodite. 

Half of the way down the slope, I followed the path I had 


marked with rocks until I came to my tidal pool, that I had 
named "Rancho Sluggo.” Around the pool were many of the water 
worn rocks, and underneath those rocks below the pool’s wa- 
terline, lived the fattest orange slugs either of us had ever seen. I 
made the discovery during a break from house building and 
showed them to Jerry. 

Jerry shrugged. "And so?” 

"And so what? Look, Jerry, those ration bars aren’t going to last 
forever. What are we going to eat when they’re all gone?” 

"Eat?” Jerry looked at the wriggling pocket , of insect life and 
grimaced. "We, Davidge. Before then pickup. Search us find, then 

"What if they don’t find us? What then?” 

Jerry grimaced again and turned back to the half-completed 
house. "Water we drink, then until pickup.” He had muttered 
something about kiz excrement and my tastebuds, then walked 
out of sight. 

Since then I had built up the pool’s walls, hoping the increased 
protection from the harsh environment would increase the herd. I 
looked under several rocks, but no increase was apparent. And, 
again, I couldn’t bring myself to swallow one of the things. I re- 
placed the rock I was looking under, stood and looked out to the 
sea. Although the eternal cloud cover still denied the surface the 
drying rays of F5Tine, there was no rain and the usual haze had 

In the direction past where I had pulled myself up on the beach, 
the sea continued to the horizon. In the spaces between the 
whitecaps, the water was as grey as a loan officer’s heart. Parallel 
lines of rollers formed approximately five kilometers from the is- 
land. The center, from where I was standing, would smash on the 
island, while the remainder steamed on. To my right, in line with 
the breakers, I could just make out another small island perhaps 
ten kilometers away. Following the path of the rollers, I looked 
far to my right, and where the grey-white of the sea should have 
met the lighter grey of the sky, there was a black line on the 

The harder I tried to remember the briefing charts on F3Tine 
IV’s land masses, the less clear it became. Jerry couldn’t re- 
member anything either — at least nothing it would tell me. Why 
should we remember? The battle was supposed to be in space, each 
one trying to deny the other an orbital staging area in the F5Tine 
system. Neither side wanted to set foot on F3Tine, much less fight 



a battle there. Still, whatever it was called, it was land suid consid- 
erably larger than the sand and rock bar we were occupying. 

How to get there was the problem. Without wood, fire, leaves, 
or animal skins, Jerry and I were destitute compared to the aver- 
age poverty-stricken caveman. The only thing we had that would 
float was the nasesay. The capsule. Why not? The only real prob- 
lem to overcome was getting Jerry to go along with it. 

That evening, while the gre3Tiess made its slow transition to 
black, Jerry and I sat outside the shack nibbling our quarter por- 
tions of ration bars. The Drac’s yellow eyes studied the dark line 
on the horizon, then it shook its head. "Ne, Davidge. Dangerous 

I popped the rest of my ration bar into my mouth and talked 
around it. "Any more dangerous than staying here?” 

"Soon pickup, ne?” 

I studied those yellow eyes. "Jerry, you don’t believe that any 
more than I do.” I leaned forward on the rock and held out my 
hands. "Look, our chances will be a lot better on a larger land 
mass. Protection from the big waves, maybe food. . . .” 

"Not maybe, ne?” Jerry pointed at the water. "How nasesay 
steer, Davidge? In that, how steer? Ess eh soakers, waves, beyond 
land take, gavey? Bresha,” Jerry’s hands slapped together. 'Ess eh 
bresha rocks on, ne? Then we death.” 

I scratched my head. "The waves are going in that direction 
from here, and so is the wind. If the land mass is large enough, 
we don’t have to steer, gavey?” 

Jerry snorted. "Ne large enough; then?” 

"I didn’t say it was a sure thing.” 


"A sure thing; certain, gavey?” Jerry nodded. "And for smashing 
up on the rocks, it probably has a beach like this one.” 

"Sure thing, ne?” 

I shrugged. "No, it’s not a sure thing, but, what about staying 
here? We don’t know how big those waves can get. What if one 
just comes along and washes us off the island? What then?” 

Jerry looked at me, its eyes narrowed. "What there, Davidge? 
Irkmaan base, ne?” 

I laughed. "I told you, we don’t have any bases on F3Tine IV.” 

"Why want go, then?” 

"Just what I said, Jerry. I think our chances would be better.” 

"Ummm.” The Drac folded its arms. "Viga, Davidge, nasesay 
stay. I know.” 



"Know what?” 

Jerry smirked then stood and went into the shack. After a mo- 
ment it returned and threw a two-meter long metal rod at my 
feet. It was the one the Drac had used to bind my arms. "Davidge, 
I know.” 

I raised my eyebrows and shrugged. "What are you talking 
about? Didn’t that come from your capsule?” 

"Ne, Irkmaan.” 

I bent down and picked up the rod. Its surface was uncorroded 
and at one end were arabic numerals — a part number. For a mo- 
ment a flood of hope washed over me, but it drained away when I 
realized it was a civilian part number. I threw the rod on the 
sand. "There’s no telling how long that’s been here, Jerry. It’s a 
civilian part number and no civilian missions have been in this 
part of the galaxy since the war. Might be left over from an old 
seeding operation or exploratory mission. . . .” 

The Drac nudged it with the toe of his boot. "New, gavey?” 

I looked up at it. "You gavey stainless steel?” 

Jerry snorted and turned back toward the shack. "I stay, 
nasesay stay; where you want, you go, Davidge!” 

With the black of the long night firmly bolted down on us, the 
wind picked up, shrieking and whistling in and through the holes 
in the walls. The plastic roof flapped, pushed in and sucked out 
with such violence it threatened to either tear or sail off into the 
night. Jerry sat on the sand floor, its back leaning against the 
nasesay as if to make clear that both Drac and capsule were stay- 
ing put, although the way the sea was picking up seemed to 
weaken Jerry’s argument. 

"Sea rough now is, Davidge, rae?” 

"It’s too dark to see, but with this wind. ...” I shrugged more 
for my own benefit than the Drac’s, since the only thing visible 
inside the shack was the pale light coming through the roof. Any 
minute we could be washed off that sandbar. "Jerry, you’re being 
silly about that rod. You know that.” 

"Surda.” The Drac sounded contrite if not altogether miserable. 


"Ess eh 'Surda’?” 


Jerry remained silent for a moment. "Davidge, gavey 'not cer- 
tain not is’?” 

I sorted out the negatives. "You mean 'possible,’ "maybe,’ 


"Ae, possiblemaybeperhaps. Dracon fleet Irkmaan ships have. 
Before war buy; after war capture. Rod possiblemaybeperhaps 
Dracon is.” 

"So, if there’s a secret base on the big island, surda it’s a Dra- 
con base?” 

"Possiblemaybeperhaps, Davidge.” 

"Jerry, does that mean you want to try it? The nasesay?” 


'We? Why, Jerry? If it might be a Drac base — ” 

"We! We talk!” The Drac seemed to choke on the words. 

"Jerry, we talk, and you better believe we talk! If I’m going to 
death it on this island, I have a right to know why.” 

The Drac was quiet for a long time. "Davidge.” 


"Nasesay, you take. Half ration bars you leave. I stay.” 

I shook my head to clear it. "You want me to take the capsule 

"What you want is, neT’ 

"Ae, but why? You must realize there won’t be any pickup.” 


"Surda, nothing. You know there isn’t going to be a pickup. 
What is it? You afraid of the water? If that’s it, we have a better 
chance — ” 

"Davidge, up your mouth shut. Nasesay you have. Me ne you 
need, gaveyl” 

I nodded in the dark. The capsule was mine for the taking; 
what did I need a grumpy Drac along for — especially since our 
truce could expire at any moment? The answer made me feel a 
little silly — human. Perhaps it’s the same thing. The Drac was all 
that stood between me and utter aloneness. Still, there was the 
small matter of staying alive. "We should go together, Jerry.” 


I felt myself blush. If humans have this need for com- 
panionship, why are they also ashamed to admit it? "We just 
should. Our chances would be better.” 

"Alone your chances better are, Davidge. Your enemy I am.” 

I nodded again and grimaced in the dark. "Jerry, you gavey 

"Ne gavey.” 

"Lonely. Being alone, by myself.” 

"Gavey you alone. Take nasesay, I stay.” 



"That’s it . . . see, viga, I don’t want to.” 

"You want together go?” A low, dirty chuckle came from the 
other side of the shack. "You Dracon like? You me death, Irk- 
maan” Jerry chuckled some more. "Irkmaan poorzhab in head, 

"Forget it!” I slid down from the wall, smoothed out the sand 
and curled up with my back toward the Drac. The wind seemed to 
die down a bit and I closed my eyes to try and sleep. In a bit, the 
snap, crack of the plastic roof blended in with the background of 
shrieks and whistles and I felt myself drifting off, when my eyes 
opened wide at the sound of footsteps in the sand. I tensed, ready 
to spring. 

"Davidge?” Jerry’s voice was very quiet. 


I heard the Drac sit on the sand next to me. "You loneliness, 
Davidge. About it hard you talk, ne?” 

"So what?” The Drac mumbled something that was lost in the 
wind. "What?” I turned over and saw Jerry looking through a 
hole in the wall. 

"Why I stay. Now, you I tell, ne?” 

I shrugged. "Okay; why not?” 

Jerry seemed to struggle with the words, then opened its mouth 
to speak. Its eyes opened wide. "Magasienna!” 

I sat up. "Ess?” 

Jerry pointed at the hole. "Soaker!” 

I pushed it out of the way and looked through the hole. Steam- 
ing toward our island was an insane mountainous fury of 
whitecapped rollers. It was hard to tell in the dark, but the one in 
front looked taller than the one that had wet our feet a few days 
before. The ones following it were bigger. Jerry put a hand on my 
shoulder and I looked into the Drac’s eyes. We broke and ran for 
the capsule. We heard the first wave rumbling up the slope as we 
felt around in the dark for the recessed doorlatch. I just got my 
finger on it when the wave smashed against the shack, collapsing 
the roof. In half a second we were under water, the currents in- 
side the shack agitating us like socks in a washing machine. 

The water receded, and as I cleared my eyes, I saw that the 
windward wall of the shack had caved in. "Jerry!” 

Through the collapsed wall, I saw the Drac staggering around 
outside. "Irkmaan?” Behind him I could see the second roller 
gathering speed. 

"Kizlode, what’n the Hell you doing out there? Glet in here!” 



I turned to the capsule, still lodged firmly between the two 
rocks, and found the handle. As I opened the door, Jerry stumbled 
through the missing wall and fell against me. "Davidge 
. . . forever soakers go on! Forever!” 

"Get in!” I helped the Drac through the door and didn’t wait for 
it to get out of the way. I piled in on top of Jerry and latched the 
door just as the second wave hit. I could feel the capsule lift a bit 
and rattle against the overhang of the one rock. 

"Davidge, we float?” 

"No. The rocks are holding us. We’ll be all right once the 
breakers stop.” 

"Over you move.” 

"Oh.” I got off Jerry’s chest and braced myself against one end 
of the capsule. After a bit, the capsule came to rest and we waited 
for the next one. "Jerry?” 


"What was it that you were about to say?” 

"Why I stay?” 


"About it hard me talk, gavey?” 

"I know, I know.” 

The next breaker hit and I could feel the capsule rise and rattle 
against the rock. "Davidge, gavey ’vi nessa’?” 

"Ne gavey.” 

"Vi nessa . . . little me, gavey?” 

The capsule bumped down the rock and came to rest. "What 
about little you?” 

"Little me . . . little Drac. From me, gavey?” 

"Are you telling me you’re pregnant?” 


I shook my head. "Hold on, Jerry. I don’t want any misun- 
derstandings. Pregnant . . . are you going to be a parent?” 

"Ae, parent, two-zero-zero in line, very important is, ne?” 

"Terrific. What’s this got to do with you not wanting to go to 
the other island?” 

"Before, me vi nessa, gavey? Tean death.” 

"Your child, it died?” 

"Ae!” The Drac’s sob was torn from the lips of the universal 
mother. "I in fall hurt. Tean death. Nasesay in sea us bang. Tean 
hurt, gavey?” 

"Ae, I gavey.” So, Jerry was afraid of losing another child. It 
was almost certain that the capsule trip would bang us around a 



lot, but staying on the sandbar didn’t appear to be improving our 
chances. The capsule had been at rest for quite a while, and I de- 
cided to risk a peek outside. The small canopy windows seemed to 
be covered with sand, and I opened the door. I looked around, and 
all of the walls had been smashed flat. I looked toward the sea, 
but could see nothing. "It looks safe, Jerry ...” I looked up, to- 
ward the blackish sky, and above me towered the white plume of 
a descending breaker. "Maga damn siennal” I slammed the hatch 

"Ess, Davidge?” 

"Hang on, Jerry!” 

The sound of the water hitting the capsule was beyond hearing. 
We banged once, twice against the rock, then we could feel our- 
selves twisting, shooting upweird. I made a grab to hang on, but 
missed as the capsule took a sickening lurch downward. I fell into 
Jerry then was flung to the opposite wall where I struck my head. 
Before I went blank, I heard Jerry cry "Tean! Vi tean!” 

the lieutenant pressed his hand control and a figure — tall, 

humanoid, yellow — appeared on the screen. 

“Dracslime!” shouted the auditorium of seated recruits. 

The lieutenant faced the recruits. “Correct. This is a Drac. Note 
that the Drac race is uniform as to color; they are all yellow.” The 
recruits chuckled politely. The officer preened a bit, then with a 
light wand began pointing out various features. “The three- 
fingered hands are distinctive, of course, as is the almost noseless 
face, which gives the Drac a toad-like appearance. On average, 
eyesight is slightly better than human, hearing about the same, 
and smell . . .” the lieutenant paused. “The smell is terrible!” The 
officer beamed at the uproar from the recruits. When the au- 
ditorium quieted down, he pointed his light wand at a fold in the 
figure’s belly. “This is where the Drac keeps its family jewels-all 
of them.” Another chuckle. “That’s right, Dracs are hermaphro- 
dites, with both male and female reproductive organs contained 
in the same individual.” The lieutenant faced the recruits. "You 
go tell a Drac to go boff himself, then watch out, because he can!” 
The laughter died down, and the lieutenant held out a hand to- 
ward the screen. “You see one of these things, what do you do?” 


.... I cleared the screen and computer sighted on the next Drac 
fighter, looking like a double x in the screen’s display. The Drac 



shifted bard to the left, then right again. I felt the autopilot puJI 
my ship after the fighter, sorting out and ignoring the false im- 
ages, trying to lock its electronic crosshairs on the Drac. “Come 
on, toad face ... a JittJe bit to the left. . . The double cross 
image moved into the ranging rings on the display and I felt the 
missile attached to the belly of my fighter take off. “Gotcha!” 
Through my canopy I saw the flash as the missile detonated. My 
screen showed the Drac fighter out of control, spinning toward 
Fyrine IV’s cloud-shrouded surface. I dived after it to confirm the 
kill . . . skin temperature increasing as my ship brushed the upper 
atmosphere. “Come on, dammit, blow!” I shifted the ship’s sys- 
tems over for atmospheric flight when it became obvious that I’d 
have to follow the Drac right to the ground. Still above the clouds, 
the Drac stopped spinning and turned. I hit the auto override and 
pulled the stick into my lap. The fighter wallowed as it tried to 
pull up. Everyone knows the Drac ships work better in atmos- 
phere . . . heading toward me on an interception course . . . why 
doesn’t the slime fire . . . just before the collision, the Drac ejects 
. . . power gone; have to deadstick it in. I track the capsule as it 
falls through the muck intending to find that Dracslime and finish 
the job. . . . 

It could have been for seconds or years that I groped into the 
darkness around me. I felt touching, but the parts of me being 
touched seemed far, far away. First chills, then fever, then chills 
again, my head being cooled by a gentle hand. I opened my eyes 
to narrow slits and saw Jerry hovering over me, blotting my 
forehead with something cool. I managed a whisper. "Jerry.” 

The Drac looked into my eyes and smiled. "Good is, Davidge. 
Good is.” 

The light on Jerry’s face flickered and I smelled smoke. "Fire.” 

Jerry got out of the way and pointed toward the center of the 
room’s sandy floor. I let my head roll over and realized that I was 
lying on a bed of soft, springy branches. Opposite my bed was 
another bed, and between them crackled a cheery campfire. "Fire 
now we have, Davidge. And wood.” Jerry pointed toward the roof 
made of wooden poles thatched with broad leaves. 

I turned and looked around, then let my throbbing head sink 
down and closed my eyes. "Where are we?” 

"Big island, Davidge. Soaker off sandbar us washed. Wind and 
waves us here took. Right you were.” 

"I ... I don’t understand; ne gavey. It’d take days to get to the 



big island from the sandbar.” 

Jerry nodded and dropped what looked like a sponge into a 
shell of some sort filled with water. "Nine days. You I strap to 
nasesay, then here on beach we land.” 

"Nine days? I’ve been out for nine days?” 

Jerry shook his head. "Seventeen. Here we land eight days . . .” 
The Drac waved its hand behind itself. 

"Ago . . . eight days ago.” 


Seventeen days on Fyrine IV was better than a month on 
Earth. I opened my eyes again and looked at Jerry. The Drac was 
almost bubbling with excitement. "What about tean, your child?” 

Jerry patted its swollen middle. "Good is, Davidge. You more 
nasesay hurt.” 

I overcame an urge to nod. "I’m happy for you.” I closed my 
eyes and turned my face toward the wall, a combination of wood 
poles and leaves. "Jerry?” 


"You saved my life.” 

"Ae ” 


Jerry sat quietly for a long time. "Davidge. On sandbar you 
talk. Loneliness now gavey.” The Drac shook my arm. "Here, now 
you eat.” 

I turned and looked into a shell filled with a steaming liquid. 
"What is it; chicken soup?” 


"Ess va?” I pointed at the bowl, realizing for the first time how 
weak I was. 

Jerry frowned. "Like slug, but long.” 

"An eel?” 

"Ae, but eel on land, gavey?" 

"You mean 'snake’?” 


I nodded and put my lips to the edge of the shell. I sipped some 
of the broth, swallowed and let the broth’s healing warmth seep 
through my body. "Good.” 

"You custa want?” 


"Custa." Jerry reached next to the fire and picked up a 
squareish chunk of clear rock. I looked at it, scrached it with my 
thumbnail, then touched it with my tongue. 



"Halite! Salt!” 

Jerry smiled. "Custa you want?” 

I laughed. "All the comforts. By all means, let’s have custa.” 

Jerry took the halite, knocked off a corner with a small stone, 
then used the stone to grind the pieces against another stone. He 
held out the palm of his hand with a tiny mountain of white 
granules in the center. I took two pinches, dropped them into my 
snake soup and stirred it with my finger. Then I took a long swal- 
low of the delicious hroth. I smacked my lips. "Fantastic.” 

"Good, ne?” 

"Better than good; fantastic.” I took another swallow making a 
big show of smacking my lips and rolling my eyes. 

"Fantastic, Davidge, ne?” 

"Ae.” I nodded at the Drac. "I think that’s enough. I want to 

"Ae, Davidge, gavey.” Jerry took the bowl and put it beside the 
fire. The Drac stood, walked to the door and turned back. Its yel- 
low eyes studied me for an instant, then it nodded, turned and 
went outside. I closed my eyes and let the heat from the campfire 
coax the sleep over me. 

In two days I was up in the shack trying my legs, and in two 
more days, Jerry helped me outside. The shack was located at the 
top of a long, gentle rise in a scrub forest; none of the trees were 
any taller than five or six meters. At the bottom of the slope, bet- 
ter than eight kilometers from the shack, was the still-rolling 
sea. The Drac had carried me. Our trusty nasesay had filled with 
water and had been dragged back into the sea soon after Jerry 
pulled me to dry land. With it went the remainder of the ration 
bars. Dracs are very fussy about what they eat, but hunger finally 
drove Jerry to sample some of the local flora and fauna — hunger 
and the human lump that was rapidly drifting away from lack of 
nourishment. The Drac had settled on a bland, starchy type of 
root, a green bushberry that when dried made an acceptable tea, 
and snakemeat. Exploring, Jerry had found a partly eroded salt 
dome. In the days that followed, I grew stronger and added to our 
diet with several t3^es of sea mollusk and a fruit resembling a 
cross between a pear and a plum. 

As the days grew colder, the Drac and I were forced to realize 
that Fyrine IV had a winter. Given that, we had to face the possi- 
bility that the winter would be severe enough to prevent the 
gathering of food — and wood. When dried next to the fire, the ber- 



rybush and roots kept well, and we tried both salting and smok- 
ing snakemeat. With strips of fiber from the berrybush for thread, 
Jerry and I pieced together the snake skins for winter clothing. 
The design we settled on involved two layers of skins with the 
down from berrybush seed pods stuffed between and then held in 
place by quilting the layers. 

We agreed that the house would never do. It took three days of 
searching to find our first cave, and another three days before we 
found one that suited us. The mouth opened onto a view of the 
eternally tormented sea, but was set in the face of a low cliff well 
above sea level. Around the cave’s entrance we found great quan- 
tities of dead wood and loose stone. The wood we gathered for 
heat; and the stone we used to wall up the entrance, leaving only 
space enough for a hinged door. The hinges were made of snake 
leather and the door of wooden poles tied together with berrybush 
fibre. The first night after completing the door, the sea winds 
blew it to pieces; and we decided to go back to the original door 
design we had used on the sandbar. 

Deep inside the cave, we made our living quarters in a 
chamber with a wide, sandy floor. Still deeper, the cave had natu- 
ral pools of water, which were fine for drinking but too cold for 
bathing. We used the pool chamber for our supply room. We lined 
the walls of our living quarters with piles of wood and made new 
beds out of snakeskins and seed pod down. In the center of the 
chamber we built a respectable fireplace with a large, flat stone 
over the coals for a griddle. The first night we spent in our new 
home, I discovered that, for the first time since ditching on that 
damned planet, I couldn’t hear the wind. 

During the long nights, we would sit at the fireplace making 
things — gloves, hats, packbags — out of snake leather, and we 
would talk. To break the monotony, we alternated days between 
speaking Drac and English, and by the time the winter hit with 
its first ice storm, each of us was comfortable in the other’s lan- 

We talked of Jerry’s coming child: 

"What are you going to name it, Jerry?” 

"It already has a name. See, the Jeriba line has five names. My 
name is Shigan; before me came my parent, Gothig; before Gothig 
was Haesni; before Haesni was Ty, and before Ty was Zammis. 
The child is named Jeriba Zammis.” 

"Why only the five names? A human child can have just about 
any name its parents pick for it. In fact, once a human becomes 



an adult, he or she can pick any name he or she wants.” 

The Drac looked at me, its eyes filled with pity. "Davidge, how 
lost you must feel. You humans — how lost you must feel.” 


Jerry nodded. "Where do you come from, Davidge?” 

"You mean my parents?” 


I shrugged. "I remember my parents.” 

"And their parents?” 

"I remember my mother’s father. When I was young we used to 
visit him.” 

"Davidge, what do you know about this grandparent?” 

I rubbed my chin. "It’s kind of vague ... I think he was in some 
kind of agriculture — I don’t know.” 

"And his parents?” 

I shook my head. "The only thing I remember is that some- 
where along the line, English and Germans figured. Gavey Ger- 
mans and English?” 

Jerry nodded. "Davidge, I can recite the history of my line back 
to the founding of my planet by Jeriba Ty, one of the original 
settlers, one hundred and ninety-nine generations ago. At our 
line’s archives on Draco, there are the records that trace the line 
across space to the racehome planet, Sindie, and there back sev- 
enty generations to Jeriba Ty, the founder of the Jeriba line.” 

"How does one become a founder?” 

"Only the firstborn carries the line. Products of second, third, or 
fourth births must found their own lines.” 

I nodded, impressed. "Why only the five names? Just to make it 
easier to remember them?” 

Jerry shook its head. "No. The names are things to which we 
add distinction; they are the sanie, commonplace five so that they 
do not overshadow the events that distinguish their bearers. The 
name I carry, Shigan, has been served by great soldiers, scholars, 
students of philosophy, and several priests. The name my child 
will carry has been served by scientists, teachers, and explorers.” 

"You remember all of your ancestor’s occupations?” 

Jerry nodded. "Yes, and what they each did and where they did 
it. You must recite your line before the line’s archives to be ad- 
mitted into adulthood as I was twenty-two of my years ago. Zam- 
mis will do the same, except the child must begin its i recita- 
tion . . .” Jerry smiled, "with my name, Jeriba Shigan.” ) 

"You can recite almost two hundred biographies from memory?” 




I went over to my bed and stretched out. As I stared up at the 
smoke being sucked through the crack in the chamber’s ceiling, I 
began to understand v/hat Jerry meant by feeling lost. A Drac 
with several dozens of generations under its belt knew who it was 
and what it had to live up to. "Jerry?” 

"Yes, Davidge?” 

"Will you recite them for me?” I turned my head and looked at 
the Drac in time to see an expression of utter surprise melt into 
joy. It was only after many years had passed that I learned I had 
done Jerry a great honor in requesting his line. Among the Dracs, 
it is a rare expression of respect, not only of the individual, but of 
the line. 

Jerry placed the hat he was sewing on the sand, stood and be- 

“Before you here I stand, Shigan of the line of feriba, born of 
Gothig, the teacher of music. A musician of high merit, the stu- 
dents of Gothig included Datzizh of the Nem line, Perravane of 
the Tuscor line, and many lesser musicians. Trained in music at 
the Shimuram, Gothig stood before the archives in the year 11,051 
and spoke of its parent Haesni, the manufacturer of ships. . . .” 

As I listened to Jerry’s singsong of formal Dracon, the backward 
biographies — beginning with death and ending with adulthood — I 
experienced a sense of time-binding, of being able to know and 
touch the past. Battles, empires built and destroyed, discoveries 
made, great things done — a tour through twelve thousand years of 
history, but perceived as a well-defined, living continuum. 

Against this: I Willis of the Davidge line stand before you, born 
of Sybil the housewife and Nathan the second-rate civil engineer, 
one of them born of Grandpop, who probably had something to do 
with agriculture, born of nobody in particular. . . . Hell, I wasn’t 
even that! My older brother carried the line; not me. I listened 
and made up my mind to memorize the line of Jeriba. 

We talked of war: 

"That was a pretty neat trick, suckering me into the atmos- 
phere, then ramming me.” 

Jerry shrugged. "Dracon fleet pilots are best; this is well 

I raised my eyebrows. "That’s why I shot your tail feathers off, 

Jerry shrugged, frowned, and continued sewing on the scraps of 

snake leather. "Why do the Earthmen invade this part of the 
Galaxy, Davidge? We had thousands of years of peace before you 

"Hah! Why do the Dracs invade? We were at peace, too. What 
are you doing here?” 

"We settle these planets. It is the Drac tradition. We are 
explorers and founders.” 

"Well, toad face, what do you think we are, a bunch of 
homebodies? Humans have had space travel for less than two 
hundred years, but we’ve settled almost twice as many planets as 
the Dracs — ” 

Jerry held up a finger. "Exactly! You humans spread like a dis- 
ease. Enough! We don’t want you here!” 

"Well, we’re here, and here to stay. Now, what are you doing to 
do about it?” 

"You see what we do, Irkmaan, we fight!” 

"Phooey! You call that little scrap we were in a fight? Hell, 
Jerry, we were kicking you junk jocks out of the sky — ” 

"Haw, Davidge! That’s why you sit here sucking on smoked 

I pulled the little rascal out of my mouth and pointed it at the 
Drac. "I notice your breath has a snake flavor too, Drac!” 

Jerry snorted and turned away from the fire. I felt stupid, first 
because we weren’t going to settle an argument that had plagued 
a hundred worlds for over a century. Second, I wanted to have 
Jerry check my recitation. I had over a hundred generations 
memorized. The Drac’s side was toward the fire leaving enough 
light falling on its lap to see its sewing. 

"Jerry, what are you working on?” 

"We have nothing to talk about, Davidge.” 

"Come on, what is it?” 

Jerry turned its head toward me, then looked back into its lap 
and picked up a tiny snakeskin suit. "-For Zammis.” Jerry smiled 
and I shook my head, then laughed. 

We talked of philosophy; 

"You studied Shizumaat, Jerry; why won’t you tell me about its 

Jerry frowned. "No, Davidge.” 

"Are Shizumaat’s teachings secret or something?” 

Jerry shook its head. "No. But we honor Shizumaat too much 
for talk.” 



I rubbed my chin. "Do you mean too much to talk about it, or to 
talk about it with a human?” 

"Not with humans, Davidge; just not with you.” 


Jerry lifted its head and narrowed its yellow eyes. "You know 
what you said ... on the sandbar.” 

I scratched my head and vaguely recalled the curse I laid on the 
Drac about Shizumaat eating it. I held out my hands. "But, Jerry, 
I was mad, ang"y. You can’t hold me accountable for what I said 

"I do.” 

"Will it change anything if I apologize?” 

"Not a thing.” 

I stopped myself from saying something nasty and thought back 
to that moment when Jerry and I stood ready to strangle each 
other. I remembered something about that meeting and screwed 
the comers of my mouth in place to keep from smiling. "Will you 
tell me Shizumaat’s teachings if I forgive you ... for what you 
said about Mickey Mouse?” I bowed my head in an appearance of 
reverence, although its chief purpose was to suppress a cackle. 

Jerry looked up at me, its face pained with guilt. "I have felt 
bad about that, Davidge. If you forgive me, I will talk about 

"Then, I forgive you, Jerry.” 

"One more thing.” 


"You must tell me of the teachings of Mickey Mouse.” 

"I’ll . . . uh, do my best.” 

We talked of Zammis: 

"Jerry, what do you want little Zammy to be?” 

The Drac shrugged. "Zammis must live up to its own name. I 
want it to do that with honor. If Zammis does that, it is all I can 

"Zammy will pick its own trade?” 


"Isn’t there anything special you want, though?” 

Jerry nodded. "Yes, there is.” 

"What’s that?” 

"That Zammis will, one day, find itself off this miserable 

I nodded. "Amen.” 




The winter dragged on until Jerry and I began wondering if we 
had gotten in on the beginning of an ice age. Outside the cave, 
everything was coated with a thick layer of ice, and the low 
temperature combined with the steady winds made venturing out- 
side a temptation of death by falls or freezing. Still, by mutual 
agreement, we both went outside to relieve ourselves. There were 
several isolated chambers deep in the cave; but we feared pollut- 
ing our water supply, not to mention the air inside the cave. The 
main risk outside was dropping one’s drawers at a wind chill fac- 
tor that froze breath vapor before it could be blown through the 
thin face muffs we had made out of our flight suits. We learned 
not to dawdle. 

One morning, Jerry was outside answering the call, while I 
stayed by the fire mashing up dried roots with water for griddle 
cakes. I heard Jerry call from the mouth of the cave. "Davidge!” 


"Davidge, come quick!” 

A ship! It had to be! I put the shell bowl on the sand, put on my 
hat and gloves, and ran through the passage. As I came close to 
the door, I untied the muff from around my neck and tied it over 
my mouth and nose to protect my lungs. Jerry, its head bundled 
in a similar manner, was looking through the door, waving me 
on. "What is it?” 

Jerry stepped away from the door to let me through. "Come, 

Sunlight. Blue sky and sunlight. In the distance, over the sea, 
new clouds were piling up; but above us the sky was clear. 
Neither of us could look at the sun directly, but we turned our 
faces to it and felt the rays of Fyrine on our skins. The light 
glared and sparkled off the ice-covered rocks and trees. "Beauti- 

"Yes.” Jerry grabbed my sleeve with a gloved hand. "Davidge, 
you know what this means?” 


"Signal fires at night. On a clear night, a large fire could be 
seen from orbit, nel” 

I looked at Jerry, then back at the sky. "I don’t know. If the fire 
were big enough, and we get a clear night, and if anybody picks 
that moment to look ...” I let my head hang down. "That’s always 
supposing that there’s someone in orbit up there to do the look- 
ing.” I felt the pain begin in my fingers. "We better go back in.” 



"Davidge, it’s a chance!” 

"What are we going to use for wood, Jerry?” I held out an arm 
toward the trees above and around the cave. "Everything that can 
burn has at least fifteen centimeters of ice on it.” 

"In the cave — ” 

"Our firewood?” I shook my head. "How long is this winter 
going to last? Can you be sure that we have enough wood to 
waste on signal fires?” 

"It’s a chance, Davidge. It’s a chance!” 

Our survival riding on a toss of the dice. I shrugged. "Why 

We spent the next few hours hauling a quarter of our carefully 
gathered firewood and dumping it outside the mouth of the cave. 
By the time we were finished and long before night came, the sky 
was again a solid blanket of grey. Several times each night, we 
would check the sky, waiting for stars to appear. During the days, 
we would frequently have to spend several hours beating the ice 
off the wood pile. Still, it gave both of us hope, until the wood in 
the cave ran out and we had to start borrowing from the signal 

That night, for the first time, the Drac looked absolutely de- 
feated. Jerry sat at the fireplace, staring at the flames. Its hand 
reached inside its snakeskin jacket through the neck and pulled 
out a small golden cube suspended on a chain. Jerry held the cube 
clasped in both hands, shut its eyes and began mumbling in Drac. 
I watched from my bed until Jerry finished. The Drac sighed, 
nodded and replaced the object within its jacket. 

"What’s that thing?” 

Jerry looked up at me, frowned, then touched the front of its 
jacket. "This? It is my Talman — what you call a Bible.” 

"A Bible is a book. You know, with pages that you read.” 

Jerry pulled the thing from its jacket, mumbled a phrase in 
Drac, then worked a small catch. Another gold cube dropped from 
the first and the Drac held it out to me. "Be very careful with it, 

I sat up, took the object and examined it in the light of the fire. 
Three hinged pieces of the golden metal formed the binding of a 
book two-and-a-half centimeters on an edge. I opened the book in 
the middle and looked over the double columns of dots, lines, and 
squiggles. "It’s in Drac.” 

"Of course.” 

"But I can’t read it.” 



Jerry’s eyebrows went up. "You speak Drac so well, I didn’t re- 
member . . . would you like me to teach you?” 

"To read this?” 

"Why not? You have an appointment you have to keep?” 

I shrugged. "No.” I touched my finger to the book and tried to 
turn one of the tiny pages. Perhaps fifty pages went at once. "I 
can’t separate the pages.” 

Jerry pointed at a small bump at the top of the spine. "Pull out 
the pin. It’s for turning the pages.” 

I pulled out the short needle, touched it against a page and it 
slid loose of its companion and flipped. "Who wrote your Talman, 

"Many. All great teachers.” 


Jerry nodded. "Shizumaat is one of them.” 

I closed the book and held it in the palm of my hand. "Jerry, 
why did you bring this out now?” 

"I needed its comfort.” The Drac held out its arms. "This place. 
Maybe we will grow old here and die. Maybe we will never be 
found. I see this today as we brought in the signal fire wood.” Jerry 
placed its hands on its belly. "Zammis will be born here. The 
Talman helps me to accept what I cannot change.” 

"Zammis; how much longer?” 

Jerry smiled. "Soon.” 

I looked at the tiny book. "I would like you to teach me to read 
this, Jerry.” 

The Drac took the chain and case from around its neck and 
handed it to me. "You must keep the Talman in this.” 

I held it for a moment, then shook my head. "I can’t keep this, 
Jerry. It’s obviously of great value to you. What if I lost it?” 

"You won’t. Keep it while you learn. The student must do this.” 

I put the chain around my neck. "This is quite an honor you do 

Jerry shrugged. "Much less than the honor you do me by 
memorizing the Jeriba line. Your recitations have been accurate, 
and moving.” Jerry took some charcoal from the fire, stood and 
walked to the wall of the chamber. That night I learned the 
thirty-one letters and sounds of the Drac alphabet, as well as the 
additional nine sounds and letters used in formal Drac writings. 

The wood eventually ran out. Jerry was very heavy and very, 
very sick as Zammis prepared to make its appearance, and it was 



all the Drac could do to waddle outside with my help to relieve 
itself. Hence, woodgathering, which involved taking our remain- 
ing stick and beating the ice off the dead standing trees, fell to 
me, as did cooking. 

On a particularly blustery day, I noticed that the ice on the 
trees was thinner. Somewhere we had turned winter’s corner and 
were heading for spring. I spent my ice-pounding time feeling 
great at the thought of spring, and I knew Jerry would pick up 
some at the news. The winter was really getting the Drac down. I 
was working the woods above the cave, taking armloads of 
gathered wood and dropping them down below, when I heard a 
scream. I froze, then looked around. I could see nothing but the 
sea and the ice around me. Then, the scream again. "Davidge!” It 
was Jerry. I dropped the load I was carrying and ran to the cleft 
in the cliffs face that served as a path to the upper woods. Jerry 
screamed again; and I slipped, then rolled until I came to the 
shelf level with the cave’s mouth. I rushed through the entrance, 
down the passage way until I came to the chamber. Jerry writhed 
on its bed, digging its fingers into the sand. 

I dropped on my knees next to the Drac. "I’m here, Jerry. What 
is it? What’s wrong?” 

"Davidge!” The Drac rolled its eyes, seeing nothing, its mouth 
worked silently, then exploded with another scream. 

"Jerry, it’s me!” I shook the Drac’s shoulder. "It’s me, Jerry. 

Jerry turned its head toward me, grimaced, then clasped the 
fingers of one hand around my left wrist with the strength of 
pain. "Davidge! Zammis . . . something’s gone wrong!” 

"What? What can I do?” 

Jerry screamed again, then its head fell back to the bed in a 
half-faint. The Drac fought back to consciousness and pulled my 
head down to its lips. "Davidge, you must swear.” 

"What, Jerry? Swear what?” 

"Zammis ... on Draco. To stand before the line’s archives. Do 

"What do you mean? You talk like you’re dying.” 

"I am, Davidge. Zammis two hundredth generation . . . very im- 
portant. Present my child, Davidge. Swear!” 

I wiped the sweat from my face with my free hand. "You’re not 
going to die, Jerry. Hang on!” 

"Enough! Face truth, Davidge! I die! You must teach the line of 
Jeriba to Zammis . . . and the book, the Talman, gavey?” 



"Stop it!” Panic stood over me almost as a physical presence. 
"Stop talking like that! You aren’t going to die, Jerry. Come on; 
fight, you kizlode sonofabitch. . . .” 

Jerry screamed. Its breathing was weak and the Drac drifted in 
and out of consciousness. "Davidge.” 

"What?” I realized I was sobbing like a kid. 

"Davidge, you must help Zammis come out.” 

"What . . . how? What in the Hell are you talking about?” 

Jerry turned its face to the wall of the cave. "Lift my jacket.” 


"Lift my jacket, Davidge. Now!” 

I pulled up the snake skin jacket exposing Jerry’s swollen belly. 
The fold down the center was bright red and seeping a clear 
liquid. "What . . . what should I do?” 

Jerry breathed rapidly, then held its breath. "Tear it open! You 
must tear it open, Davidge!” 


"Do it! Do it, or Zammis dies!” 

"What do I care about your goddamn child, Jerry? What do I 
have to do to save you?” 

"Tear it open . . .” whispered the Drac. "Take care of my child, 
Irkmaan. Present Zammis before the Jeriba archives. Swear this 
to me.” 

"Oh, Jerry . . .” 

"Swear this!” 

I nodded, hot fat tears dribbling down my cheeks. "I swear 
it. . . .” Jerry relaxed its grip on my wrist and closed its eyes. I 
knelt next to the Drac, stunned. "No. No, no, no, no.” 

Tear it open! You must tear it open, Davidge! 

I reached up a hand and gingerly touched the fold on Jerry’s 
belly. I could feel life struggling beneath it, trying to escape the 
airless confines of the Drac’s womb. I hated it; I hated the damned 
thing as I never hated anything before. Its struggles grew weaker, 
then stopped. 

Present Zammis before the Jeriba archives. Swear this to 
me. . . . 

I swear it. .. . 

I lifted my other hand and inserted my thumbs into the fold 
and tugged gently. I increased the amount of force, then tore at 
Jerry’s belly like a madman. The fold burst open, soaking the 
front of my jacket with the clear fluid. Holding the fold open, I 
could see the still form of Zammis huddled in a well of the fluid, 




I vomited. When I had nothing more to throw up, I reached into 
the fluid and put my hands under the Drac infant. I lifted it, 
wiped my mouth on my upper left sleeve, and closed my mouth 
over Zammis’s and pulled the child’s mouth open with my right 
hand. Three times, four times, I inflated the child’s lungs, then it 
coughed. Then it cried. I tied off the two umbilicals with berry- 
bush fibre, then cut them. Jeriba Zammis was freed of the 
dead flesh of its parent. 

I held the rock over my head, then brought it down with all of 
my force upon the ice. Shards splashed away from the point of 
impact, exposing the dark green beneath. Again, I lifted the rock 
and brought it down, knocking loose another rock. I picked it up, 
stood and carried it to the half-covered corpse of the Drac. "The 
Drac,” I whispered. Good. Just call it 'the Drac.’ Toadface. Drag- 

The enemy. Call it anything to insulate those feelings against the 

I looked at the pile of rocks I had gathered, decided it was suffi- 
cient to finish the job, then knelt next to the grave. As I placed 
the rocks on the pile, unmindful of the gale-blown sleet freezing 
on my snakeskins, I fought back the tears. I smacked my hands 
together to help restore the circulation. Spring was coming, but it 
was still dangerous to stay outside too long. And I had been a 
long time building the Drac’s grave. I picked up another rock and 
placed it into position. As the rock’s weight leaned against the 
snakeskin mattress cover, I realized that the Drac was already 
frozen. I quickly placed the remainder of the rocks, then stood. 

The wind rocked me and I almost lost my footing on the ice 
next to the grave. I looked toward the boiling sea, pulled my 
snakeskins around myself more tightly, then looked down at the 
pile of rocks. There should be words. You don’t just cover up the 
dead, then go to dinner. There should be words . But what words? I 
was no religionist, and neither was the Drac. Its formal 
philosophy on the matter of death was the same as my informal 
rejection of Islamic delights, pagan Valhallas, and Judeo- 
Christian pies in the sky. Death is death; finis', the end; the 
worms crawl in, the worms crawl out . . . Still, there should be 

I reached beneath my snakeskins and clasped my gloved hand 
around the golden cube of the Talman. I felt the sharp corners of 



the cube through my glove, closed my^ eyes and ran through the 
words of the great Drac philosophers. But there was nothing they 
had written for this moment. 

The Talman was a book on life. Talma means life, and this 
occupies Drac philosophy. They spare nothing for death. Death is 
a fact; the end of life. The Talman had no words for me to say. 
The wind knifed through me, causing me to shiver. Already my 
fingers were numb and pains were beginning in my feet. Still, 
there should be words. But the only words I could think of would 
open the gate, flooding my being with pain — with the realization 
that the Drac was gone. Still . . . still, there should be words. 

"Jerry, !...”! had no words. I turned from the grave, my tears 
mixing with the sleet. 

With the warmth and silence of the cave around me, I sat on 
my mattress, my back against the wall of the cave. I tried to lose 
myself in the shadows and flickers of light cast on the opposite 
wall by the fire. Images would half-form, then dance away before 
I could move my mind to see something in them. As a child I used 
to watch clouds, and in them, see faces, castles, animals, dragons, 
and giants. It was a world of escape — fantasy; something to inject 
wonder and adventure into the mundane, regulated life of a mid- 
dle-class boy leading a middle-class life. All I could see on the 
wall of the cave was a representation of Hell: flames licking at 
twisted, grotesque representations of condemned souls. I laughed 
at the thought. We think of Hell as fire, supervised hy a cackling 
sadist in a red union suit. Fjrrine IV had taught me this much: Hell 
is loneliness, hunger, and endless cold. 

I heard a whimper, and I looked into the shadows toward the 
small mattress at the back of the cave. Jerry had made the 
snakeskin sack filled with seed pod down for Zammis. It whim- 
pered again, and I leaned forward, wondering if there was some- 
thing it needed. A pang of fear tickled my guts. What does a Drac 
infant eat? Dracs aren’t mammals. All they ever taught us in 
training was how to recognize Dracs — that, and how to kill them. 
Then real fear began working on me. "What in the hell am I 
going to use for diapers?” 

It whimpered again. I pushed myself to my feet, walked the 
sandy floor to the infant’s side, then knelt beside it. Out of the 
bundle that was Jerry’s old flight suit, two chubby three-fingered 
arms waved. I picked up the bundle, carried it next to the fire, 
and sat on a rock. Balancing the bundle on my lap, I carefully 



unwrapped it. I could see the yellow glitter of Zammis’s eyes be- 
neath yellow, sleep-heavy lids. From the almost noseless face and 
solid teeth to its deep yellow color, Zammis was every bit a minia- 
ture of Jerry, except for the fat. Zammis fairly wallowed in rolls 
of fat. I looked, and was grateful to find that there was no mess. 

I looked into Zammis’ face. "You want something to eat?’’ 


Its jaws were ready for business, and I assumed that Dracs 
must chew solid food from day one. I reached over the fire and 
picked up a twist of dried snake, then touched it against the in- 
fant’s lips. Zammis turned its head. "C’mon, eat. You’re not going 
to find anything better around here.” 

I pushed the snake against its lips again, and Zammis pulled 
back a chubby arm and pushed it away. I shrugged. "Well, 
whenever you get hungry enough, it’s there.” 

"Guh meh!” Its head rocked back and forth on my lap, a tiny, 
three-fingered hand closed around my finger, and it whimpered 

"You don’t want to eat, you don’t need to be cleaned up, so what 
do you want? Kos va nu?” 

Zammis’s face wrinkled, and its hand pulled at my finger. Its 
other hand waved in the direction of my chest. I picked Zammis 
up to arrange the flight suit, and the tiny hands reached out, 
grasped the front of my snakeskins, and held on as the chubby 
arms pulled the child next to my chest. I held it close, it placed its 
cheek against my chest, and promptly fell asleep. "Well . . . I’ll be 

Until the Drac was gone, I never realized how closely I had 
stood near the edge of madness. My loneliness was a cancer — a 
growth that I fed with hate: hate for the planet with its endless 
cold, endless winds, and endless isolation; hate for the helpless 
yellow child with its clawing need for care, food, and an affection 
that I couldn’t give; and hate for myself I found myself doing 
things that frightened and disgusted me. To break my solid wall 
of being alone, I would talk, shout, and sing to myself — uttering 
curses, nonsense, or meaningless croaks. 

Its eyes were open, and it waved a chubby arm and cooed. I 
picked up a large rock, staggered over to the child’s side, and held 
the weight over the tiny body. "I could drop this thing, kid. Where 
would you be then?” I felt laughter coming from my lips. I threw 
the rock aside. "Why should I mess up the cave? Outside. Put you 



outside for a minute, and you die! You hear me? Die!” 

The child worked its three-fingered hands at the empty air, 
shut its eyes, and cried. "Why don’t you eat? Why don’t you crap? 
Why don’t you do anything right, but cry?” The child cried more 
loudly. "Bah! I ought to pick up that rock and finish it! That’s 
what I ought ...” A wave of revulsion stopped my words, and I 
went to my mattress, picked up my cap, gloves, and muff, then 
headed outside. 

Before I came to the rocked-in entrance to the cave, I felt the 
bite of the wind. Outside I stopped and looked at the sea and 
sky — a roiling panorama in glorious black and white, grey and 
grey. A gust of wind slapped against me, rocking me back toward 
the entrance. I regained my balance, walked to the edge of the 
cliff and shook my fist at the sea. "Gro ahead! Go ahead and blow, 
you kizlode sonofabitch! You haven’t killed me yet!” 

I squeezed the windburned lids of my eyes shut, then opened 
them and looked down. A forty-meter drop to the next ledge, but 
if I took a running jump, I could clear it. Then it would be a 
hundred and fifty meters to the rocks below. Jump. I backed away 
from the cliffs edge. "Jump! Sure, jump!” I shook my head at the 
sea. "I’m not going to do your job for you! You want me dead, 
you’re going to have to do it yourself!” 

I looked back and up, above the entrance to the cave. The sky 
was darkening and in a few hours, night would shroud the land- 
scape. I turned toward the cleft in the rock that led to the scrub 
forest above the cave. 

I squatted next to the Drac’s grave and studied the rocks I had 
placed there, already fused together with a layer of ice. "Jerry. 
What am I going to do?” 

The Drac would sit by the fire, both of us sewing. And we talked. 

"You know, Jerry, all this,” I held up the Talman, 'T’ve heard it 
all before. I expected something different.” 

The Drac lowered its sewing to its lap and studied me for an 
instant. Then it shook its head and resumed its sewing. "You are 
not a terribly profound creature, Davidge.” 

"What’s that supposed to mean?” 

Jerry held out a three-fingered hand. "A universe, Davidge — 
there is a universe out there, a universe of life, objects, and events. 
There are differences, but it is all the same universe, and we all 
must obey the same universal laws. Did you ever think of that?” 


"That is what I mean, Davidge. Not terribly profound.” 



I snorted. "I told you, Fd heard this stuff before. So I imagine 
that shows humans to be just as profound as Dracs.” 

Jerry laughed. "You always insist on making something racial 
out of my observations. What I said applied to you, not to the race 
of humans. . . .” 

I spat on the frozen ground. "You Dracs think you’re so damned 
smart.” The wind picked up, and I could taste the sea salt in it. 
One of the big blows was coming. The sky was changing to that 
curious darkness that tricked me into thinking it was midnight 
blue, rather than black. A trickle of ice found its way under my 

"What’s wrong with me just being me? Everybody in the uni- 
verse doesn’t have to be a damned philosopher, toadface!” There 
were millions — billions — like me. More maybe. "What difference 
does it make to anything whether I ponder existence or not? It’s 
here; that’s all I have to know.” 

"Davidge, you don’t even khow your family line beyond your par- 
ents, and now you say you refuse to know that of your universe 
that you can know. How will you know your place in this existence, 
Davidge? Where are you? Who are you?” 

I shook my head and stared at the grave, then I turned and 
faced the sea. In another hour, or less, it would be too dark to see 
the whitecaps. "I’m me, that’s who.” But was that 'me’ who held 
the rock over Zammis, threatening a helpless infant with death? I 
felt my guts curdle as the loneliness I thought I felt grew claws 
and fangs and began gnawing and slashing at the remains of my 
sanity. I turned back to the grave, closed my eyes, then opened 
them. "I’m a fighter pilot, Jerry. Isn’t that something?” 

"That is what you do, Davidge; that is not who nor what you 

I knelt next to the grave and clawed at the ice-sheathed rocks 
with my hands. "You don’t talk to me now, Drac! You’re deadT I 
stopped, realizing that the words I had heard were from the Tal- 
man, processed into my own context. I sliunped against the rocks, 
felt the wind, then pushed myself to my feet. "Jerry, Zammis 
won’t eat. It’s been three days. What do I do? Why didn’t you tell 
me emything about Drac brats before you ...” I held my hands to 
my face. "Steady, boy. Keep it up, and they’ll stick you in a 
home.” The wind pressed against my back, I lowered my hands, 
then walked from the grave. 

I sat in the cave, staring at the fire. I couldn’t hear the wind 

through the rock, and the wood was dry, making the fire hot and 
quiet. I tapped my fingers against my knees, then began hum- 
ming. Noise, any kind, helped to drive off the oppressive loneli- 
ness. "Sonofabitch.” I laughed and nodded. "Yea, verily, and kiz- 
lode va nu, dutschaat.” I chuckled, trying to think of all the curses 
and obscenities in Drac that I had learned from Jerry. There were 
quite a few. My toe tapped against the sand and my humming 
started up again. I stopped, frowned, then remembered the song. 
"Highty tighty Christ almighty. 

Who the Hell are we? 

Zim zam. Gawd Damn, 

We’re in Squadron B.” 

I leaned back against the wall of the cave, trying to remember 
another verse. A pilot’s got a rotten life! no crumpets with our 
teaJ we have to service the general’s wife! and pick fleas from her 
knee. "Damn!” I slapped my knee, trying to see the faces of the 
other pilots in the squadron lounge. I could almost feel the whiskey 
fumes tickling the inside of my nose. Vadik, Wooster, Ar- 
nold . . . the one with the broken nose — Demerest, Kadiz. I hum- 
med again, swinging an imaginary mug of issue grog by its imag- 
inary handle. 

"And, if he doesn’t like it, 

I’ll tell you what we’ll do: 

We’ll fill his ass with broken glass, 
and seal it up with glue.” 

The cave echoed with the song. I stood, threw up my arms and 
screamed. "Yaaaaahoooooo!” 

Zammis began crying. I bit my lip and walked over to the bun- 
dle on the mattress. "Well? You ready to eat?” 

"Unh, unh, weh.” The infant rocked its head back and forth. I 
went to the fire, picked up a twist of snake, then returned. I knelt 
next to Zammis and held the snake to its lips. Again, the child 
pushed it away. "Come on, you. You have to eat.” I tried again 
with the same results. I took the wraps off the child and looked at 
its body. I could tell it was losing weight, although Zammis didn’t 
appear to be getting weak. I shrugged, wrapped it up again, stood, 
and began walking back to my mattress. 

"Guh, weh.” 

I turned. "What?” 

"Ah, guh, guh.” 

I went back, stooped over and picked the child up. Its eyes were 
open and it looked into my face, then smiled. 



"What’re you laughing at, ugly? You should get a load of your 
own face.” 

Zammis harked out a short laugh, then gurgled. I went to my 
mattress, sat down, and arranged Zammis in my lap. "Gumma, 
huh, huh.” Its hand grabbed a loose flap of snakeskin on my shirt 
and pulled on it. 

"Gumma huh huh to you, too. So, what do we do now’? How 
about I start teaching you the line of Jeriban? You’re going to 
have to learn it sometime, and it might as well be now.” The 
Jeriban line. My recitations of the line were the only things Jerry 
ever complimented me about. I looked into Zammis’s eyes. "When I 
bring you to stand before the Jeriba archives, you will say this: 
'Before you here I stand, Zammis of the line of Jeriba, born of 
Shigan, the fighter pilot.’ ” I smiled, thinking of the upraised yellow 
brows if Zammis continued: "and, by damn, Shigan was a Helluva 
good pilot, too. Why, I was once told he took a smart round in his 
tail feathers, then pulled around and rammed the kizlode 
sonofabitch, known to one and all as Willis E. Davidge ...” I 
shook my head. "You’re not going to get your wings by doing the 
line in English, Zammis.” I began again: 

"Naatha nu enta va, Zammis zea does Jeriba, estay va Shigan, 
asaam naa denvadar. . . 

For eight of those long days and nights, I feared the child would 
die. I tried everything — roots, dried berries, dried plumfruit, 
snakemeat dried, boiled, chewed, and ground. Zammis refused it 
all. I checked frequently, but each time I looked through the 
child’s wraps, they were as clean as when I had put them on. 
Zammis lost weight, but seemed to grow stronger. By the ninth 
day it was crawling the floor of the cave. Even with the fire, the 
cave wasn’t really warm. I feared that the kid would get sick 
crawling around naked, and I dressed it in the tiny snakeskin suit 
and cap Jerry had made for it. After dressing it, I stood Zammis 
up and looked at it. The kid had already developed a smile full of 
mischief that, combined with the twinkle in its yellow eyes and 
its suit and cap, made it look like an elf. I was holding Zammis 
up in a standing position. The kid seemed pretty steady on its 
legs, and I let go. Zammis smiled, waved its thinning arms about, 
then laughed and took a faltering step toward me. I caught it as 
it fell, and the little Drac squealed. 

In two more days Zammis was walking and getting into every- 
thing that could be gotten into. I spent many an anxious moment 



searching the chambers at the back of the cave for the kid after 
coming in from outside. Finally, when I caught him at the mouth 
of the cave heading full steam for the outside, I had had enough. I 
made a heu-ness out of snakeskin, attached it to a snake-leather 
leash, and tied the other end to a projection of rock above my 
head. Zammis still got into everything, but at least I could find it. 

Four days after it learned to walk, it wanted to eat. Drac babies 
are probably the most convenient and considerate infants in the 
universe. They live off their fat for about three or four Earth 
weeks, and don’t make a mess the entire time. After they learn to 
walk, and can therefore make it to a mutually agreed upon spot, 
then they want food and begin discharging wastes. I showed the 
kid once how to use the litter box I had made, and never had to 
again. After five or six lessons, Zammis was handling its own 
drawers. Watching the little Drac learn and grow, I began to un- 
derstand those pilots in my squadron who used to bore each 
other — and everyone else — with countless pictures of ugly chil- 
dren, accompanied by thirty-minute narratives for each snapshot. 
Before the ice melted, Zammis was talking. I taught it to call me 

For lack of a better term, I called the ice-melting season 
"spring.” It would be a long time before the scrub forest showed 
any green or the snakes ventured forth from their icy holes. 
The sky maintained its eternal cover of dark, angry clouds, and 
still the sleet would come and coat everything with a hard, slip- 
pery glaze. But the next day the glaze would melt, and the 
warmer air would push another millimeter into the soil. 

I realized that this was the time to be gathering wood. Before 
the winter hit, Jerry and I working together hadn’t gathered 
enough wood. The short summer would have to be spent putting 
up food for the next winter. I was hoping to build a tighter door 
over the mouth of the cave, and I swore that I would figure out 
some kind of indoor plumbing. Dropping your drawers outside in 
the middle of winter was dangerous. My mind was full of these 
things as I stretched out on my mattress watching the smoke curl 
through a crack in the roof of the cave. Zammis was off in the 
back of the cave playing with some rocks that it had found, and I 
must have fallen asleep. I awoke with the kid shaking my arm. 


"Huh? Zammis?” 

"Uncle. Look.” 



I rolled over on my left side and faced the Drac. Zammis was 
holding up his right hand, fingers spread out. "What is it, Zam- 

"Look.” It pointed at each of its three fingers in turn. "One, two, 


"Look.” Zammis grabbed my right hand and spread out the fin- 
gers. "One, two, three, four, fivel” 

1 nodded. "So you can count to five.” 

The Drac frowned and made an impatient gesture with its tiny 
fists. "Look.” It took my outstretched hand and placed its own on 
top of it. With its other hand, Zammis pointed first at one of its 
own fingers, then at one of mine. "One, one.” The child’s yellow 
eyes studied me to see if I understood. 


The child pointed again. "Two, two.” It looked at me, then 
looked back at my hand and pointed. "Three, three.” Then he 
grabbed my two remaining fingers. "Four, Five!” It dropped my 
hand, then pointed to the side of its own hand. "Four, five?” 

I shook my head. Zammis, at less than four Earth months old, 
had detected part of the difference between Dracs and humans. A 
human child would be — what — five, six, or seven years old before 
asking questions like that. I sighed. "Zammis.” 

"Yes, Uncle?” 

"Zammis, you are a Drac. Dracs only have three fingers on a 
hand.” I held up my right hand and wiggled the fingers. "I’m a 
human. I have five.” 

I swear that tears welled in the child’s eyes. Zammis held out 
its hands, looked at them, then shook its head. "Grow four, five?” 



I sat up and faced the kid. Zammis was wondering where its 
other four fingers had gone. "Look, Zammis. You and I are differ- 
ent . . . different kinds of beings, understand?” 

Zammis shook his head. "Grow four, five?” 

"You won’t. You’re a Drac.” I pointed at my chest. "I’m a 
human.” This was getting me nowhere. "Your parent, where you 
came from, was a Drac. Do you understand?” 

Zammis frowned. "Drac. What Drac?” 

The urge to resort to the timeless standby of "you’ll understand 
when you get older” pounded at the back of my mind. I shook my 
head. "Dracs have three fingers on each hand. Your parent had 
three fingers on each hand.” I rubbed my beard. "My parent was a 
human and had five fingers on each hand. That’s why I have five 
fingers on each hand.” 

Zammis knelt on the sand and studied its fingers. It looked up 
at me, back to its hands, then back to me. "What parent?” 

I studied the kid. It must be having an identity crisis of some 
kind. I was the only person it had ever seen, and I had five fin- 
gers per hand. "A parent is . . . the thing ...” I scratched my 
beard again. "Look ... we all come from someplace. I had a 
mother and father — two different kinds of humans — that gave me 
life; that made me, understand?” 

Zammis gave me a look that could be interpreted as "Mac, you 
are full of it.” I shrugged. "I don’t know if I can explain it.” 

Zammis pointed at its own chest. "My mother? My father?” 

I held out my hands, dropped them into my lap, pursed my lips, 
scratched my beard, and generally stalled for time. Zammis held 
an unblinking gaze on me the entire time. "Look, Zammis. You 
don’t have a mother and a father. I’m a human, so I have them; 
you’re a Drac. You have a parent — just one, see?” 

Zammis shook its head. It looked at me, then pointed at its own 
chest. "Drac.” 


Zammis pointed at my chest. "Human.” 

"Right again.” 

Zammis removed its hand and dropped it in its lap. "Where 
Drac come from?” 

Sweet Jesus! Trying to explain hermaphroditic reproduction to 
a kid who shouldn’t even be crawling yet! "Zammis ...” I held up 
my hands, then dropped them into my lap. "Look. You see how 
much bigger I am than you?” 

"Yes, Uncle.” 


"Good.” I ran my fingers through my hair, fighting for time and 
inspiration. "Your parent was big, like me. Its name was . . . Jeri- 
ba Shigan.” Funny how just saying the name was painful. "Jeri- 
ba Shigan was like you. It only had three fingers on each hand. 
It grew you in its tummy.” I poked Zammis’s middle. "Under- 

Zammis giggled and held its hands over its stomach. "Uncle, 
how Dracs grow there?” 

I lifted my legs onto the mattress and stretched out. Where do 
little Dracs come from? I looked over to Zammis and saw the child 
hanging upon my every word. I grimaced and told the truth. 
"Damned if I know, Zammis. Damned if I know.” Thirty seconds 
later, Zammis was back playing with its rocks. 

Summer, and I taught Zammis how to capture and skin the 
long grey snakes, and then how to smoke the meat. The child 
would squat on the shallow bank above a mudpool, its yellow eyes 
fixed on the snake holes in the bank, waiting for one of the oc- 
cupants to poke out its head. The wind would blow, but Zammis 
wouldn’t move. Then a flat, triangular head set with tiny blue 
eyes would appear. The snake would check the pool, turn and 
check the bank, then check the sky. It would advance out of the 
hole a bit, then check it all again. Often the snakes would look 
directly at Zammis, but the Drac could have been carved from 
rock. Zammis wouldn’t move until the snake was too far out of 
the hole to pull itself back in tail first. Then Zammis would 
strike, grabbing the snake with both hands just behind the head. 
The snakes had no fangs and weren’t poisonous, but they were 
lively enough to toss Zammis into the mudpool on occasion. 

The skins were spread and wrapped around tree trunks and 
pegged in place to dry. The tree trunks were kept in an open 
place near the entrance to the cave, but under an overhang that 
faced away from the ocean. About two thirds of the skins put up 
in this manner cured; the remaining third would rot. 

Beyond the skin room was the smokehouse; a rock-walled 
chamber that we would hang with rows of snakemeat. A green- 
wood fire would be set in a pit in the chamber’s floor, then we 
would fill in the small opening with rocks and dirt. 

"Uncle, why doesn’t the meat rot after it’s smoked?” 

I thought upon it. "I’m not sure; I just know it doesn’t.” 

"Why do you know?” 

I shrugged. "I just do. I read about it, probably.” 



"What’s read?” 

"Reading. Like when I sit down and read the Talman.” 

"Does the Talman say why the meat doesn’t rot?” 

"No. I meant that I probably read it in another book.” 

"Do we have more books?” 

I shook my head. "I meant before I came to this planet.” 

"Why did you come to this planet?” 

"I told you. Your parent and I were stranded here during the 

"Why do the humans and Dracs fight?” 

"It’s very complicated.” I waved my hands about for a bit. The 
human line was that the Dracs were aggressors invading our 
space. The Drac line was that the humans were aggressors invad- 
ing their space. The truth? "Zammis, it has to do with the coloni- 
zation of new planets. Both races are expanding and both races 
have a tradition of exploring and colonizing new planets. I guess 
we just expanded into each other. Understand?” 

Zammis nodded, then became mercifully silent as it fell into 
deep thought. The main thing I learned from the Drac child was 
all of the questions I didn’t have answers to. I was feeling very 
smug, however, at having gotten Zammis to understand about the 
war, thereby avoiding my ignorance on the subject of preserving 
meat. "Uncle?” 

"Yes, Zammis?” 

"What’s a planet?” 

As the cold, wet summer came to an end, we had the cave jam- 
med with firewood and preserved food. With that out of the way, I 
concentrated my efforts on making some kind of indoor plumbing 
out of the natural pools in the chambers deep within the cave. 
The bathtub was no problem. By dropping heated rocks into one 
of the pools, the water could be brought up to a bearable — even 
comfortable — temperature. After bathing, the hollow stems of a 
bamboo-like plant could be used to siphon out the dirty water. 
'The tub could then be refilled from the pool above. The problem 
was where to siphon the water. Several of the chambers had holes 
in their floors. The first three holes we tried drained into our 
main chamber, wetting the low edge near the entrance. The pre- 
vious winter, Jerry and I had considered using one of those holes 
for a toilet that we would flush with water from the pools. Since 
we didn’t know where the goodies would come out, we decided 
against it. 



The fourth hole Zammis and I tried drained out below the en- 
trance to the cave in the face of the cliflF. Not ideal, but better 
than answering the call of nature in the middle of a combination 
ice-storm and blizzard. We rigged up the hole as a drain for both 
the tub and toilet. As Zammis and I prepared to enjoy our first 
hot bath, I removed my snakeskins, tested the water with my toe, 
then stepped in. "Great!” I turned to Zammis, the child still half 
dressed. "Come on in, Zammis. The water’s fine.” Zammis was 
staring at me, its mouth hanging open. "What’s the matter?” 

The child stared wide-eyed, then pointed at me with a three- 
fingered hand. "Uncle . . . what’s that?” 

I looked down. "Oh.” I shook my head, then looked up at the 
child. "Zammis, I explained all that, remember? I’m a human.” 

"But what’s it for!” 

I sat down in the warm water, removing the object of discussion 
from sight. "It’s for the elimination of liquid wastes . . . among 
other things. Now, hop in and get washed.” 

Zammis shucked its snakeskins, looked down at its own smooth- 
surfaced, combined system, then climbed into the tub. The child 
settled into the water up to its neck, its yellow eyes studying me. 


"What other things?” 

Well, I told Zammis. For the first time, the Drac appeared to be 
trying to decide whether my response was truthful or not, rather 
than its usual acceptance of my every assertion. In fact, I was 
convinced that Zammis thought I was lying — probably because I 

Winter began with a sprinkle of snowflakes carried on a gentle 
breeze. I took Zammis above the cave to the scrub forest. I held 
the child’s hand as we stood before the pile of rocks that served as 
Jerry’s grave. Zammis pulled its snakeskins against the wind, 
bowed its head, then turned and looked up into my face. "Uncle, 
this is the grave of my parent?” 

I nodded. "Yes.” 

Zammis turned back to the grave, then shook its head. "Uncle, 
how should I feel?” 

"I don’t understand, Zammis.” 

The child nodded at the grave. "I can see that you are sad being 
here. I think you want me to feel the same. Do you?” 

I frowned, then shook my head. "No. I don’t want you to be sad. 


I just wanted you to know where it is.” 

"May I go now?” 

"Sure. Are you certain you know the way back to the cave?” 

"Yes. I just want to make sure my soap doesn’t burn again.” 

I watched as the child turned and scurried off into the naked 
trees, then I turned back to the grave. "Well, Jerry, what do you 
think of your kid? Zammis was using wood ashes to clean the 
grease off the shells, then it put a shell back on the fire and put 
water in it to boil off the burnt-on food. Fat and ashes. The next 
thing, Jerry, we were making soap. Zammis’ first batch almost 
took the hide off us, but the kid’s getting better ...” 

I looked up at the clouds, then brought my glance down to the 
sea. In the distance, low, dark clouds were building up. "See that? 
You know what that means, don’t you? Ice-storm number one.” 
The wind picked up and I squatted next to the grave to replace a 
rock that had rolled from the pile. "Zammis is a good kid, Jerry. I 
wanted to hate it . . . after you died. I wanted to hate it.” I re- 
placed the rock, then looked back toward the sea. 

"I don’t know how we’re going to make it off planet, Jerry — ” I 
caught a flash of movement out of the corner of my vision. I 
turned to the right and looked over the tops of the trees. Against 
the grey sky, a black speck streaked away. I followed it with my 
eyes until it went above the clouds. 

I listened, hoping to hear an exhaust roar, but my heart was 
pounding so hard, all I could hear was the wind. Was it a ship? I 
stood, took a few steps in the direction the speck was going, then 
stopped. Turning my head, I saw that the rocks on Jerry’s grave 
were already capped with thin layers of fine snow. I shrugged and 
headed for the cave. "Probably just a bird.” 

Zammis sat on its mattress, stabbing several pieces of snake- 
skin with a bone needle. I stretched out on my own mattress and 
watched the smoke curl up toward the crack in the ceiling. Was it 
a bird? Or was it a ship? Damn, but it worked on me. Escape from 
the planet had been out of my thoughts, had been buried, hidden 
for all that summer. But again, it twisted at me. To walk where a 
sun shined, to wear cloth again, experience central heating, eat 
food prepared by a chef, to be among . . . people again. 

I rolled over on my right side and stared at the wall next to my 
mattress. People. Human people. I closed my eyes and swallowed. 
Girl human people. Female persons. Images drifted before my 
eyes — faces, bodies, laughing couples, the dance after flight train- 


ing . . . what was her name? Dolora? Dora? 

I shook my head, rolled over and sat up, facing the fire. Why 
did I have to see whatever it was? All those things I had been 
able to bury — to forget — boiling over. 


I looked up at Zammis. Yellow skin, yellow eyes, noseless toad- 
face. I shook my head. "What?” 

"Is something wrong?” 

Is something wrong, hah. "No. I just thought I saw something 
today. It probably wasn’t anything.” I reached to the fire and took 
a piece of dried snake from the griddle. I blew on it, then gnawed 
on the stringy strip. 

"What did it look like?” 

"I don’t know. The way it moved, I thought it might be a ship. 
It went away so fast, I couldn’t be sure. Might have been a bird.” 


I studied Zammis. It’d never seen a bird; neither had I on 
Fyrine IV. "An animal that flies.” 

Zammis nodded. "Uncle, when we were gathering wood up in 
the scrub forest, I saw something fly.” 

"What? Why didn’t you tell me?” 

"I meant to, but I forgot.” 

"Forgot!” I frowned. "In which direction was it going?” 

Zammis pointed to the back of the cave. "That way. Away from 
the sea.” Zammis put down its sewing. "Can we go see where it 

I shook my head. "The winter is just beginning. You don’t know 
what it’s like. We’d die in only a few days.” 

Zammis went back to poking holes in the snakeskin. To make 
the trek in the winter would kill us. But spring would be some- 
thing else. We could survive with double layered snakeskins 
stuffed with seed pod down, and a tent. We had to have a tent. 
Zammis and I could spend the winter making it, and packs. 
Boots. We’d need sturdy walking boots. Have to think on that. . . . 

It’s strange how a spark of hope can ignite, and spread, until all 
desperation is consumed. Was it a ship? I didn’t know. If it was, 
was it taking off, or landing? I didn’t know. If it was taking off, 
we’d be heading in the wrong direction. But the opposite direc- 
tion meant crossing the sea. Whatever. Come spring we would 
head beyond the scrub forest and see what was there. 

The winter seemed to pass quickly, with Zammis occupied with 



the tent and my time devoted to rediscovering the art of boot 
making. I made tracings of both of our feet on snakeskin, and, 
after some experimentation, I found that boiling the snake leather 
with plumfruit made it soft and gummy. By taking several of the 
gummy layers, weighting them, then setting them aside to dry, 
the result was a tough, flexible sole. By the time I finished Zam- 
mis’s boots, the Drac needed a new pair. 

"They’re too small. Uncle.” 

"Waddaya mean, too small?” 

Zammis pointed down. "They hurt. My toes are all crippled up.” 

I squatted down and felt the tops over the child’s toes. "I don’t 
understand. It’s only been twenty, twenty-five days since I made 
the tracings. You sure you didn’t move when I made them?” 

Zammis shook its head. "I didn’t move.” 

I frowned, then stood. "Stand up, Zammis.” The Drac stood and 
I moved next to it. The top of Zammis’s head came to the middle of 
my chest. Another sixty centimeters and it’d be as tall as Jerry. 
"Take them off, Zammis. I’ll make a bigger pair. Try not to grow 
so fast.” 

Zammis pitched the tent inside the cave, put glowing coals in- 
side, then rubbed fat into the leather for waterproofing. It had 
grown taller, and I had held off making the Drac’s boots until I 
could be sure of the size it would need. I tried to do a projection 
by measuring Zammis’s feet every ten days, then extending the 
curve into spring. According to my figures, the kid would have 
feet resembling a pair of attack transports by the time the snow 
melted. By spring, Zammis would be full grown. Jerry’s old flight 
boots had fallen apart before Zammis had been born, but I had 
saved the pieces. I used the soles to make my tracings and hoped 
for the best. 

I was busy with the new boots and Zammis was keeping an eye 
on the tent treatment. The Drac looked back at me. 



"Existence is the first given?” 

I shrugged. "That’s what Shizumaat says; I’ll buy it.” 

"But, Uncle, how do we know that existence is real?” 

I lowered my work, looked at Zammis, shook my head, then 
resumed stitching the boots. "Take my word for it.” 

The Drac grimaced. "But, Uncle, that is not knowledge; that is 



I sighed, thinking back to my sophomore year at the University 
of Nations — a bunch of adolescents lounging around a cheap flat 
experimenting with booze, powders, and philosophy. At a little 
more than one Earth year old, Zammis was developing into an 
intellectual bore. "So, what’s wrong with faith?” 

Zammis snickered. "Come now, Uncle. Faith?” 

"It helps some of us along this drizzle-soaked coil.” 


I scratched my head. "This mortal coil; life. Shakespeare, I 

Zammis frowned. "It is not in the Talman.” 

"He, not it. Shakespeare was a human.” 

Zammis stood, walked to the fire and sat across from me. "Was 
he a philosopher, like Mistan or Shizumaat?” 

"No. He wrote plays — like stories, acted out.” 

Zammis rubbed its chin. "Do you remember any of Shake- 

I held up a finger. " 'To be, or not to be; that is the question.’ ” 

The Drac’s mouth dropped open, then it nodded its head. "Yes. 
Yes! To be or not to be; that is the question!” Zammis held out its 
hands. "How do we know the wind blows outside the cave when 
we are not there to see it? Does the sea still boil if we are not 
there to feel it?” 

I nodded. "Yes.” 

"But, Uncle, how do we know?” 

I squinted at the Drac. "Zammis, I have a question for you. Is 
the following statement true or false: What I am saying right now 
is false.” 

Zammis blinked. "If it is false, then the statement is true. 
But ... if it’s true . . . the statement is false, but ...” Zammis 
blinked again, then turned and went back to rubbing fat into the 
tent. "I’ll think upon it. Uncle.” 

"You do that, Zammis.” 

The Drac thought upon it for about ten minutes, then turned 
back. "The statement is false.” 

I smiled. "But that’s what the statement said, hence it is true, 
but ...” I let the puzzle trail off. Oh, smugness, thou temptest 
even saints. 

"No, Uncle. The statement is meaningless in its present con- 
text.” I shrugged. "You see. Uncle, the statement assumes the ex- 
istence of truth values that can comment upon themselves devoid 
of any other reference. I think Lurrvena’s logic in the Talman is 



clear on this, and if meaninglessness is equated with false- 
hood ...” 

I sighed. "Yeah, well — ” 

"You see. Uncle, you must, first, establish a context in which 
your statement has meaning.” 

I leaned forward, frowned, and scratched my beard. "I see. You 
mean I was putting Descartes before the horse?” 

Zammis looked at me strangely, and even more so when I col- 
lapsed on my mattress cackling like a fool. 

"Uncle, why does the line of Jeriba have only five names? You 
say that human lines have many names.” 

I nodded. "The five names of the Jeriba line are things to 
which their bearers must add deeds. The deeds are important — 
not the names.” 

"Gothig is Shigan’s parent as Shigan is my parent.” 

"Of course. You know that from your recitations.” 

Zammis frowned. "Then, I must name my child Ty when I be- 
come a parent?” 

"Yes. And Ty must name its child Haesni. Do you see some- 
thing wrong with that?” 

"I would like to name my child Davidge, after you.” 

I smiled and shook my head. "The Ty name has been served by 
great bankers, merchants, inventors, and — well, you know your 
recitation. The name Davidge hasn’t been served by much. Think 
of what Ty would miss by not being Ty.” 

Zammis thought awhile, then nodded. "Uncle, do you think 
Gothig is alive?” 

"As far as I know.” 

"What is Gothig like?” 

I thought back to Jerry talking about its parent, Gothig. "It 
taught music, and is very strong. Jerry . . . Shigan said that its 
parent could bend metal bars with its fingers. Gothig is also very 
dignified. I imagine that right now Gothig is also very sad. Gothig 
must think that the line of Jeriba has ended.” 

Zammis frowned and its yellow brow furrowed. "Uncle, we must 
make it to Draco. We must tell Gothig the line continues.” 

"We will.” 

The winter’s ice began thinning, and boots, tent, and packs 
were ready. We were putting the finishing touches on our new 
insulated suits. As Jerry had given the Talman to me to learn, 



the golden cube now hung around Zammis’s neck. The Drac would 
drop the tiny golden book from the cube and study it for hours at 
a time. 



"Why do Dracs speak and write in one language and the hu- 
mans in another?” 

I laughed. "Zammis, the humans speak and write in many lan- 
guages. English is just one of them.” 

"How do the humans speak among themselves?” 

I shrugged. "They don’t always; when they do, they use 
interpreters — people who can speak both languages.” 

"You and I speak both English and Drac; does that make us 

"I suppose we could be, if you could ever find a human and a 
Drac who want to talk to each other. Remember, there’s a war 
going on.” 

"How will the war stop if they do not talk?” 

"I suppose they will talk, eventually.” 

Zammis smiled. "I think I would like to be an interpreter and 
help end the war.” The Drac put its sewing aside and stretched 
out on its new mattress. Zammis had outgrown even its old mat- 
tress, which it now used for a pillow. "Uncle, do you think that we 
will find anybody beyond the scrub forest?” 

"I hope so.” 

"If we do, will you go with me to Draco?” 

"I promised your parent that I would.” 

"I mean, after. After I make my recitation, what will you do?” 

I stared at the fire. "I don’t know.” I shrugged. "The war might 
keep us from getting to Draco for a long time.” 

"After that, what?” 

"I suppose I’ll go back into the service.” 

Zammis propped itself up on an elbow. "Gro back to being a 
fighter pilot?” 

"Sure. That’s about all I know how to do.” 

"And kill Dracs?” 

I put my own sewing down and studied the Drac. Things had 
changed since Jerry and I had slugged it out — more things than I 
had realized. I shook my head. "No. I probably won’t be a pilot — 
not a service one. Maybe I can land a job flying commercial 
ships.” I shrugged. "Maybe the service won’t give me any choice.” 

Zammis sat up, was still for a moment, then it stood, walked 



over to my mattress and knelt before me on the sand. "Uncle, I 
don’t want to leave you.” 

"Don’t be silly. You’ll have your own kind around you. Your 
grandparent, Gothig, Shigan’s siblings, their children — you’ll 
forget all about me.” 

"Will you forget about me?” 

I looked into those yellow eyes, then reached out my hand and 
touched Zammis’s cheek. "No. I won’t forget about you. But, re- 
member this, Zammis: you’re a Drac and I’m a human, and that’s 
how this part of the universe is divided.” 

Zammis took my hand from his cheek, spread the fingers and 
studied them. "Whatever happens. Uncle, I will never forget you.” 

The ice was gone, and the Drac and I stood in the wind-blown 
drizzle, packs on our backs, before the grave. Zammis was as tall 
as I was, which made it a little taller than Jerry. To my relief, 
the boots fit. Zammis hefted its pack up higher on its shoulders, 
then turned from the grave and looked out at the sea. I followed 
Zammis’s glance and watched the rollers steam in and smash on 
the rocks. I looked at the Drac. "What are you thinking about?” 

Zammis looked down, then turned toward me. "Uncle, I didn’t 
think of it before, but ... I will miss this place.” 

I laughed. "Nonsense! This place?” I slapped the Drac on the 
shoulder. "Why would you miss this place?” 

Zammis looked back out to sea. "I have learned many things 
here. You have taught me many things here. Uncle. My life hap- 
pened here.” 

"Only the beginning, Zammis. You have a life ahead of you.” I 
nodded my head at the grave. "Say goodbye.” 

Zammis turned toward the grave, stood over it, then knelt to 
one side and began removing the rocks. After a few moments, it 
had exposed the hand of a skeleton with three fingers. Zammis 
nodded, then wept. "I am sorry. Uncle, but I had to do that. This 
has been nothing but a pile of rocks to me. Now it is more.” 
Zammis replaced the rocks, then stood. 

I cocked my head toward the scrub forest. "Go on ahead. I’ll 
catch up in a minute.” 

"Yes, Uncle.” 

Zammis moved off toward the naked trees, and I looked down at 
the grave. "What do you think of Zammis, Jerry? It’s bigger than 
you were. I guess snake agrees with the kid.” I squatted next to 
the grave, picked up a small rock and added it to the pile. "I 



guess this is it. We’re either going to make it to Draco, or die 
trying.” I stood and looked at the sea. "Yeah, I guess I learned a 
few things here. I’ll miss it, in a way.” I turned hack to the grave 
and hefted my pack up. "Ehdevva sahn, Jeriba Shigan. So long, 

I turned and followed Zammis into the forest. 

The days that followed were full of wonder for Zammis. For me, 
the sky was still the same, dull grey, and the few variations in 
plant and animal life that we found were nothing remarkable. 
Once we got heyond the scrub forest, we climbed a gentle rise for 
a day, and then found ourselves on a wide, flat, endless plain. It 
was ankle deep in a purple weed that stained our boots the same 
color. The nights were still too cold for hiking, and we would hole 
up in the tent. Both the greased tent and suits worked well keep- 
ing out the almost constant rain. 

We had been out perhaps two of Fyrine IV’s long weeks when 
we saw it. It screamed overhead, then disappeared over the hori- 
zon before either of us could say a word. I had no doubt that the 
craft I had seen was in landing attitude. 

"Uncle! Did it see us?” 

I shook my head. "No. I doubt it. But it was landing. Do you 
hear? It was landing somewhere ahead.” 


"Let’s get moving! What is it?” 

"Was it a Drac ship, or a human ship?” 

I cooled in my tracks. I had never stopped to think about it. I 
waved my hand. "Come on. It doesn’t matter. Either way, you go 
to Draco. You’re a noncombatant, so the USE forces couldn’t do 
anything, and if they’re Dracs, you’re home free.” 

We began walking. "But, Uncle, if it’s a Drac ship, what will 
happen to you?” 

I shrugged. "Prisoner of war. The Dracs say they abide by the 
interplanetary war accords, so I should be all right.” Fat chance, 
said the back of my head to the front of my head. The big ques- 
tion was whether I preferred being a Drac POW or a permanent 
resident of Fyrine IV. I had figured that out long ago. "Come on, 
let’s pick up the pace. We don’t know how long it will take to get 
there, or how long it will be on the ground.” 

Pick ’em up; put ’em down. Except for a few breaks, we didn’t 
stop — even when night came. Our exertion kept us warm. The 



horizon never seemed to grow nearer. The longer we slogged at it, 
the duller my mind grew. It must have been days, my mind as 
numb as my feet, when I fell through the purple weed into a hole. 
Immediately, everything grew dark, and I felt a pain in my right 
leg. I felt the blackout coming, and I welcomed its warmth, its 
rest, its peace. 

"Uncle? Uncle? Wake up! Please, wake up!” 

I felt slapping against my face, although it felt somehow de- 
tached. Agony thundered into my brain, bringing me wide awake. 
Damned if I didn’t break my leg. I looked up and saw the weedy 
edges of the hole. My rear end was seated in a trickle of water. 
Zammis squatted next to me. 

"What happened?” 

Zammis motioned upwards. "This hole was only covered by a 
thin crust of dirt and plants. The water must have taken the 
ground away. Are you all right?” 

"My leg. I think I broke it.” I leaned my back against the 
muddy wall. "Zammis, you’re going to have to go on by yourself” 

"I can’t leave you, Uncle!” 

"Look, if you find anyone, you can send them back for me.” 

"What if the water in here comes up?” Zammis felt along my 
leg until I winced. "I must carry you out of here. What must I do 
for the leg?” 

The kid had a point. Drowning wasn’t in my schedule. "We 
need something stiff. Bind the leg so it doesn’t move.” 

Zammis pulled off its pack, and kneeling in the water and mud. 
went through its pack, then through the tent roll. Using the tent 
poles, it wrapped my leg with snakeskins torn from the tent. 
Then, using more snakeskins, Zammis made two loops, slipped 
one over each of my legs, then propped me up and slipped the 
loops over its shoulders. It lifted, and I blacked out. 

On the ground, covered with the remains of the tent, Zammis 
shaking my arm. "Uncle? Uncle?” 

"Yes?” I whispered. 

"Uncle, I’m ready to go.” It pointed to my side. "Your food is 
here, and when it rains, just pull the tent over your face. I’ll mark 
the trail I make so I can find my way back.” 

I nodded. "Take care of yourself.” 

Zammis shook its head. "Uncle, I can carry you. We shouldn’t 



I weakly shook my head. "Give me a break, kid. I couldn’t make 
it. Find somebody and bring ’em back.” I felt my stomach flip, and 
cold sweat drenched my snakeskins. "Go on; get going.” 

Zammis reached out, grabbed its pack and stood. The pack 
shouldered, Zammis turned and began running in the direction 
that the craft had been going I watched until I couldn’t see it. I 
faced up and looked at the clouds. "You almost got me that time, 
you kizlode sonofabitch, but you didn’t figure on the Drac . . . you 
keep forgetting . . . there’s two of us. ...” I drifted in and out of 
consciousness, felt rain on my face, then pulled up the tent and 
covered my head. In seconds, the blackout returned. 

"Davidge? Lieutenant Davidge?” 

I opened my eyes and saw something I hadn’t seen for four 
Earth years: a human face. "Who are you?” 

The face, young, long, and capped by short blond hair, smiled. 
"I’m Captain Steerman, the medical officer. How do you feel?” 

I pondered the question and smiled. "Like I’ve been shot full of 
very high grade junk.” 

"You have. You were in pretty bad shape by the time the sur- 
vey team brought you in.” 

"Survey team?” 

"I guess you don’t know. The United States of Earth and the 
Dracon Chamber have established a joint commission to supervise 
the colonization of new planets. The war is over.” 



Something heavy lifted from my chest. "Where’s Zammis?” 


"Jeriban Zammis; the Drac that I was with.” 

The doctor shrugged. "I don’t know anything about it, but I 
suppose the Draggers are taking care of it.” 

Draggers. I’d once used the term myself. As I listened to it com- 
ing out of Steerman’s mouth, it seemed foreign: alien, repulsive. 
"Zammis is a Drac, not a Dragger.” 

The doctor’s brows furrowed, then he shrugged. "Of course. 
Whatever you say. Just you get some rest, and I’ll check back on 
you in a few hours.” 

"May I see Zammis?” 

The doctor smiled. "Dear, no. You’re on your way back to the 
Delphi USEB. The . . . Drac is probably on its way to Draco.” He 
nodded, then turned and left. God, I felt lost. I looked around and 


saw that I was in the ward of a ship’s sick bay. The beds on either 
side of me were occupied. The man on my right shook his head 
and went back to reading a magazine. The one on my left looked 

"You damned Dragger suck!” He tm-ned on his left side and pre- 
sented me his back. 

Among humans once again, yet more alone than I had ever 
been. Misnuuram va siddeth, as Mistan observed in the Talman 
from the calm perspective of eight hundred years in the past. 
Loneliness is a thought — not something done to someone; instead, 
it is something that someone does to oneself Jerry shook its head 
that one time, then pointed a yellow finger at me as the words it 
wanted to say came together. "Davidge . . . to me loneliness is a 
discomfort— a small thing to be avoided if possible, but not feared. 
I think you would almost prefer death to being alone with your- 

Misnuuram yaa va nos misnuuram van dunos. "You who are 
alone by yourselves will forever be alone with others.” Mistan 
again. On its face, the statement appears to be a contradiction; 
but the test of reality proves it true. I was a stranger among my 
own kind because of a hate that I didn’t share, and a love that, to 
them, seemed alien, impossible, perverse. "Peace of thought with 
others occurs only in the mind at peace with itself.” Mistan again. 
Countless times, on the voyage to the Delphi Base, putting in my 
ward time, then during my processing out of the service, I would 
reach to my chest to grasp the Talman that no longer hung there. 
What had become of Zammis? The USESF didn’t care, and the 
Drac authorities wouldn’t say — none of my affair. 

Ex-Force pilots were a drag on the employment market, and 
there were no commercial positions open — especially not to a pilot 
who hadn’t flown in four years, who had a gimpy leg, and who 
was a Dragger suck. "Dragger suck” as an invective had the im- 
pact of several historical terms — Quisling, heretic, fag, nigger 
lover — all rolled into one. 

I had forty-eight thousand credits in back pay, and so money 
wasn’t a problem. The problem was what to do with myself. After 
kicking around the Delphi Base, I took transportation to Earth 
and, for several months, was employed by a small book house 
translating manuscripts into Drac. It seems that there was a crav- 
ing among Dracs for Westerns: "Stick ’em up naagusaat!” 

''Nu Geph, lawman.” Thang, thang! The guns flashed and the 


kizlode shaddsaat bit the thessa. 

I quit. 

I finally called my parents. Why didn’t you call before, Willy'? 
We’ve been worried sick . . . Had a few things I had to straighten 
out. Dad . . . No, not really . . . Well, we understand, son . . . it must 
have been awful . . . Dad, I’d like to come home for awhile. . . . 

Even before I put down the money on the used Dearman Elec- 
tric, I knew I was making a mistake going home. I felt the need of 
a home, but the one I had left at the age of eighteen wasn’t it. 
But I headed there because there was nowhere else to go. 

I drove alone in the dark, using only the old roads, the quiet 
hum of the Dearman’s motor the only sound. The December mid- 
night was clear, and I could see the stars through the car’s bubble 
canopy. Fyrine IV drifted into my thoughts, the raging ocean, the 
endless winds. I pulled off the road onto the shoulder and killed 
the lights. In a few minutes, my eyes adjusted to the dark and I 
stepped outside and shut the door. Kansas has a big sky, and the 
stars seemed close enough to touch. Snow crunched under my feet 
as I looked up, trying to pick Fyrine out of the thousands of visi- 
ble stars. 

Fyrine is in the constellation Pegasus, but my eyes were not 
practiced enough to pick the winged horse out from the surround- 
ing stars. I shrugged, felt a chill, and decided to get back in the 
car. As I put my hand on the doorlatch, I saw a constellation that 
I did recognize, north, hanging just above the horizon: Draco. The 
Dragon, its tail twisted around Ursa Minor, hung upside down in 
the sky. Eltanin, the Dragon’s nose, is the homestar of the Dracs. 
Its second planet, Draco, was Zammis’s home. 

Headlights from an approaching car blinded me, and I turned 
toward the car as it pulled to a stop. The window on the driver’s 
side opened and someone spoke from the darkness. 

"You need some help?’’ 

I shook my head. "No, thank you.” I held up a hand. "I was just 
looking at the stars.” 

"Quite a night, isn’t it?” 

"Sure is.” 

"Sure you don’t need any help?” 

I shook my head. "Thanks . . . wait. Where is the nearest com- 
mercial spaceport?” 

"About an hour ahead in Salina.” 

"Thanks.” I saw a hand wave from the window, then the other 


car pulled away. I took another look at Eltanin, then got back in 
my car. 

Six months later, I stood in front of an ancient cut-stone gate 
wondering what in the hell I was doing. The trip to Draco, with 
nothing but Dracs as companions on the last leg, showed me the 
truth in Namvaac’s words: "Peace is often only war without fight- 
ing.” The accords, on paper, gave me the right to travel to the 
planet, but the Drac bureaucrats and their paperwork wizards 
had perfected the big stall long before the first human step into 
space. It took threats, bribes, and long days of filling out forms, 
being checked and rechecked for disease, contraband, reason for 
visit, filling out more forms, refilling out the forms I had already 
filled out, more bribes, waiting, waiting, waiting . . . 

On the ship, I spent most of my time in my cabin, but since the 
Drac stewards refused to serve me, I went to the ship’s lounge for 
my meals. I sat alone, listening to the comments about me from 
other booths. I had figured the path of least resistance was to 
pretend I didn’t understand what they were saying. It is always 
assumed that humans do not speak Drac. 

"Must we eat in the same compartment with the Irkmaan 

"Look at it, how its pale skin blotches — and that evil smelling 
thatch on top. Feh! The smell!” 

I ground my teeth a little and kept my glance riveted to my 

"It defies the Talman that the universe’s laws could be so cor- 
rupt as to produce a creature such as that.” 

I turned and faced the three Dracs sitting in the booth across 
the aisle from mine. In Drac, I replied: "If your line’s elders had 
seen fit to teach the village kiz to use contraceptives, you wouldn’t 
even exist.” I returned to my food while the two Dracs struggled 
to hold the third Drac down. 

On Draco, it was no problem finding the Jeriba estate. The 
problem was getting in. A high stone wall enclosed the property, 
and from the gate, I could see the huge stone mansion that Jerry 
had described to me. I told the guard at the gate that I wanted to 
see Jeriba Zammis. The guard stared at me, then went into an 
alcove behind the gate. In a few moments, another Drac emerged 
from the mansion and walked quickly across the wide lawn to the 
gate. The Drac nodded at the guard, then stopped and faced me. It 



was a dead ringer for Jerry. 

"You are the Irkmaan that asked to see Jeriba Zammis?” 

I nodded. "Zammis must have told you about me. I’m Willis 

The Drac studied me. "I am Estone Nev, Jeriba Shigan’s sib- 
ling. My parent, Jeriba Gothig, wishes to see you.” The Drac 
turned abruptly and walked back to the mansion. I followed, feel- 
ing heady at the thought of seeing Zammis again. I paid little 
attention to my surroundings until I was ushered into a large 
room with a vaulted stone ceiling. Jerry had told me that the 
house was four thousand years old. I believed it. As I entered, 
another Drac stood and walked over to me. It was old, but I knew 
who it was. 

"You are Gothig, Shigan’s parent.” 

The yellow eyes studied me. "Who are you, Irkmaan?” It held 
out a wrinkled, three-fingered hand. "What do you know of Jeri- 
ba Zammis, and why do you speak the Drac tongue with the 
style and accent of my child Shigan? What are you here for?” 

"I speak Drac in this manner because that is the way Jeriba 
Shigan taught me to speak it.” 

The old Drac cocked its head to one side and narrowed its yel- 
low eyes. "You knew my child? How?” 

"Didn’t the survey commission tell you?” 

"It was reported to me that my child, Shigan, was killed in the 
battle of Fyrine IV. That was over six of our years ago. What is 
your game, Irkmaan?” 

I turned from Gothig to Nev. The younger Drac was examining 
me with the same look of suspicion. I turned back to Gk)thig. 
"Shigan wasn’t killed in the battle. We were stranded together on 
the surface of Fyrine IV and lived there for a year„ Shigan died 
giving birth to Jeriba Zammis. A year later the joint survey 
commission found us and — ” 

"Enough! Enough of this, Irkmaan! Are you here for money, to 
use my influence for trade concessions — what?” 

I frowned. "Where is Zammis?” 

Tears of anger came to the old Drac’s eyes. "There is no Zam- 
mis, Irkmaan! The Jeriba line ended with the death of Shigan!” 

My eyes grew wide as I shook my head. "That’s not true. I 
know. I took care of Zammis — you heard nothing from the com- 

"Get to the point of your scheme, Irkmaan. I haven’t all day.” 

I studied Gothig. The old Drac had heard nothing from the 



commission. The Drac authorities took Zammis, and the child had 
evaporated. Gothig had been told nothing. Why? "I was with Shi- 
gan, Gothig. That ig how I learned your language. When Shigan 
died giving birth to Zammis, I — ” 

"Irkmaan, if you cannot get to your scheme, I will have to ask 
Nev to throw you out. Shigan died in the battle of Fyrine IV. The 
Drac Fleet notified us only days later.” 

I nodded. "Then, Gothig, tell me how I came to know the line of 
Jeriba? Do you wish me to recite it for you?” 

Gothig snorted. "You say you know the Jeriba line?” 


Gothig flipped a hand at me. "Then, recite.” 

I took a breath, then began. By the time I had reached the 
hundred and seventy-third generation, Gk)thig had knelt on the 
stone floor next to Nev. The Dracs remained that way for the 
three hours of the recital. When I concluded, Gothig bowed its 
head and wept. "Yes, Irkmaan, yes. You must have known Shi- 
gan. Yes.” The old Drac looked up into my face, its eyes wide 
with hope. "And, you say Shigan continued the line — that Zammis 
was born?” 

I nodded. "I don’t know why the commission didn’t notify you.” 

Gothig got to its feet and frowned. "We will find out, 
Irkmaan — what is your name?” 

"Davidge. Willis Davidge.” 

"We will find out, Davidge.” 

Gothig arranged quarters for me in its house, which was fortu- 
nate, since I had little more than eleven hundred credits left. 
After making a host of inquiries, Gothig sent Nev and me to the 
Chamber Center in Sendievu, Draco’s capital city. The Jeriba 
line, I found, was influential, and the big stall was held down to a 
minimum. Eventually, we were directed to the Joint Survey 
Commission representative, a Drac named Jozzdn Vrule. It looked 
up from the letter Gothig had given me and frowned. "Where did 
you get this, Irkmaan?” 

"I believe the signature is on it.” 

The Drac looked at the paper, then back at me. "The Jeriba 
line is one of the most respected on Draco. You say that Jeriba 
Gothig gave you this?” 

"I felt certain I said that; I could feel my lips moving — ” 

Nev stepped in. "You have the dates and the information con- 
cerning the Fyrine IV survey mission. We want to know what 



happened to Jeriba Zammis.” 

Jozzdn Vrule frowned and looked back at the paper. "Estone 
Nev, you are the founder of your line, is this not true?” 

"It is true.” 

"Would you found your line in shame? Why do I see you with 
this Irkmaan?” 

Nev curled its upper lip and folded its arms. "Jozzdn Vrule, if 
you contemplate walking this planet in the foreseeable future as a 
free being, it would be to your profit to stop working your mouth 
and to start finding Jeriba Zammis.” 

Jozzdn Vrule looked down and studied its fingers, then returned 
its glance to Nev. "Very well, Estone Nev. You threaten me if I 
fail to hand you the truth. I think you will find the truth the 
greater threat.” The Drac scribbled on a piece of paper, then 
handed it to Nev. "You will find Jeriba Zammis at this address, 
and you will curse the day that I gave you this.” 

We entered the imbecile colony feeling sick. All around us, Dracs 
stared with vacant eyes, or screamed, or foamed at the mouth, or 
behaved as lower-order creatures. After we had arrived, Gothig 
joined us. The Drac director of the colony frowned at me and 
shook its head at Gothig. "Turn back now, while it is still possi- 
ble, Jeriba Gothig. Beyond this room lies nothing but pain and 

Gothig grabbed the director by the front of its wraps. "Hear me, 
insect: If Jeriba Zammis is within these walls, bring my grand- 
child forth! Else, I shall bring the might of the Jeriba line down 
upon your pointed head!” 

The director lifted its head, twitched its lips, then nodded. 
"Very well. Very well, you pompous Kazzmidth! We tried to pro- 
tect the Jeriba reputation. We tried! But now you shall see.” The 
director nodded and pursed its lips. "Yes, you overwealthy fashion 
follower, now you shall see.” The director scribbled on a piece of 
paper, then handed it to Nev. "By giving you that, I will lose my 
position, but take it! Yes, take it! See this being you call Jeriba 
Zammis. See it, and weep!” 

Among trees and grass, Jeriba Zammis sat upon a stone 
bench, staring at the ground. Its eyes never blinked, its hands 
never moved. Gothig frowned at me, but I could spare nothing for 
Shigan’s parent. I walked to Zammis. "Zammis, do you know me?” 

The Drac retrieved its thoughts from a million warrens and 
raised its yellow eyes to me. I saw no sign of recognition. "Who 


are you?” 

I squatted down, placed my hands on its arms and shook them. 
"Dammit, Zammis, don’t you know me? Fm your Uncle. Re- 
member that? Uncle Davidge?” 

The Drac weaved on the bench, then shook its head. It lifted an 
arm and waved to an orderly. "I want to go to my room. Please, 
let me go to my room.” 

I stood and grabbed Zammis by the front of its hospital gown. 
"Zammis, it’s me!” 

The yellow eyes, dull and lifeless, stared back at me. The or- 
derly placed a yellow hand upon my shoulder. "Let it go, Irk- 

"Zammis!” I turned to Nev and Gothig. "Say something!” 

The Drac orderly pulled a sap from its pocket, then slapped it 
suggestively against the palm of its hand. "Let it go, Irkmaan.” 

Gothig stepped forward. "Explain this!” 

The orderly looked at Gothig, Nev, me, and then Zammis. "This 
one — this creature — came to us professing a love, a love mind you, 
of humans! This is no small perversion, Jeriba Gothig. The 
government would protect you from this scandal. Would you wish 
the line of Jeriba dragged into this?” 

I looked at Zammis. "What have you done to Zammis, you kiz- 
lode sonofabitch? A little shock? A little drug? Rot out its mind?” 

The orderly sneered at me, then shook its head. "Yon, Irkmaan, 
do not understand. This one would not be happy as an Irkmaan 
vul — a human lover. We are making it possible for this one to 
function in Drac society. You think this is wrong?” 

I looked at Zammis and shook my head. I remembered too well 
my treatment at the hands of my fellow humans. "No. I don’t 
think it’s wrong ... I just don’t know.” 

The orderly turned to Gothig. "Please understand, Jeriba 
Gothig. We could not subject the Jeriba Line to this disgrace. 
Your grandchild is almost well and will soon enter a reeducation 
program. In no more than two years, you will have a grandchild 
worthy of carrying on the Jeriba line. Is this wrong?” 

Gothig only shook its head. I squatted down in front of Zammis 
and looked up into its yellow eyes. I reached up and took its right 
hand in both of mine. "Zammis?” 

Zammis looked down, moved its left hand over and picked up 
my left hand and spread the fingers. One at a time Zammis 
pointed at the fingers of my hand, then it looked into my eyes, 
then examined the hand again. "Yes . . .” Zammis pointed again. 



"One, two, three, four, fiver Zammis looked into my eyes. "Four, 

I nodded. "Yes. Yes.” 

Zammis pulled my hand to its cheek and held it close. "Un- 
cle .. . Uncle. I told you I’d never forget you.” 

I never counted, the years that passed. My beard was back, and 
I knelt in my snakeskins next to the grave of my friend, Jeriba 
Shigan. Next to the grave was the four-year-old grave of Gothig. I 
replaced some rocks, then added a few more. Wrapping my 
snakeskins tightly against the wind, I sat down next to the grave 
and looked out to sea. Still the rollers steamed in under the 
grey-black cover of clouds. Soon, the ice would come. I nodded, 
looked at my scarred, wrinkled hands, then back at the grave. 

"I couldn’t stay in the settlement with them, Jerry. Don’t get 
me wrong; it’s nice. Damned nice. But I kept looking out my win- 
dow, seeing the ocean, thinking of the cave. I’m alone, in a way. 
But it’s good. I know what and who I am, Jerry, and that’s all 
there is to it, right?” 

I heard a noise. I crouched over, placed my hands upon my 
withered knees, and pushed myself to my feet, "rhe Drac was com- 
ing from the settlement compound, a child in its arms. 

I rubbed my beard. "Eh, Ty, so that is your first child?” 

The Drac nodded. "I would be pleased. Uncle, if you would teach 
it what it must be taught: the line, the Talman; and about life on 
Fyrine IV, our planet called 'Friendship’.” 

I took the bundle into my arms. Chubby three-fingered arms 
waved at the air, then grasped my snakeskins. "Yes, Ty, this one 
is a Jeriba.” I looked up at Ty. "And how is your parent, Zam- 

Ty shrugged. "It is as well as can be expected. My parent 
wishes you well.” 

I nodded. "And the same to it, Ty. Zammis ought to get out of 
that air-conditioned capsule and come back to live in the cave. 
It’ll do it good.” 

Ty grinned and nodded its head. "I will tell my parent. Uncle.” 

I stabbed my thumb into my chest. "Look at me! You don’t see 
me sick, do you?” 

"No, Uncle.” 

"You tell Zammis to kick that doctor out of there and to come 
back to the cave, hear?” 

"Yes, Uncle.” Ty smiled. "Is there anything you need?” 


I nodded and scratched the back of my neck. "Toilet paper. Just 
a couple of packs. Maybe a couple of bottles of whiskey — no, forget 
the whiskey. I’ll wait until Haesni, here, puts in its first year. 
Just the toilet paper.” 

Ty bowed. "Yes, Uncle, and may the many mornings find you 

I waved my hand impatiently. "They will, they will. Just don’t 
forget the toilet paper.” 

Ty bowed again. "I won’t. Uncle.” 

Ty turned and walked through the scrub forest back to the col- 
ony. Gothig had put up the cash and moved the entire line, and 
all the related lines, to F5Tine IV. I lived with them for a year, 
but I moved out and went back to the cave. I gathered the wood, 
smoked the snake, and withstood the winter. Zammis gave me the 
young Ty to rear in the cave, and now Ty had handed me Haesni. 
I nodded at the child. "Your child will be called Gothig, and 
then ...” I looked at the sky and felt the tears drying on my face. 
"... and then, Gothig’s child will be called Shigan.” I nodded and 
headed for the cleft that would bring us down to the level of the 


! (See Cover II of this issue for a picture of the Anthology) ! 

j That's right, if you rtiissed some of the first issues of ISAAC ASIMOV’S ! 

; SCIENCE FICTION AAAGAZINE, you'll enjoy this superb collection of 16 ! 
j stories by the masters of science fiction. ; 




: NYC NY 10017 i 

I □ Enclosed is $2.25 plus 65 cents handling/shipping (total of $2.90) I 
i for Asimov's SF Anthology #2 IASFM99 ' 

; Name ! 

I Address I 

j City State .Zip ; 




Dear Sir: 

First, I must say that I find your magazine truly enjoyable. Of 
course, yoim letter coliunn seems to indicate that nearly everyone 
enjoys it. Do you ever get letters from people who DON’T like it? 

Secondly, the number of stories appearing in your magazine which 
are first sales is highly encouraging, Fm sure, to many would-be 
writers. Fve enclosed a self-addressed, stamped envelope, so please 
send me a copy of your requirement sheet and format information. 
Thank you. 


Dave Dellinger 

Springfield OR 

Oh, sure, a few don’t like it, and a few even have the temerity not 
to like stories of mine. The percentage of unfavorables we print is 
about equal to the percentage of unfavorables we get. 

— Isaac Asimov 

Dear Sir: 

Fd like to compliment you on the fine mix of stories in yoxir mag- 
azine. Your February issue, only the second copy of I A’ s fin Fve seen 
in my community, was wonderful. "A Bait of Dreams” and "Back 
to Byzantium” were two of the most beautiful science fiction fan- 
tasies Fve ever read. By adding them to the other good stories in 
that issue, you’ve made me a fan. 

Fd like to add that the guy from whom I borrowed the magazine 
enjoys his subscription immensely — I only hope he’ll continue to 
lend me his copies! Both of us are looking forweu’d to reading Dr. 
Asimov’s new novels when they are published and we have money. 


Kimberley Wheat 
Coming NY 

You’re not a fan till you buy the magazine — B-U-Y. Till then you’re 
just a free-loader. 

— IscMC Asimov 


Gentle Editors: 

I have just purchased the February edition of lA’sSFM (what do 
you think of that abbr., Dean?) and would like to tell you that I am 
delighted with it. Though this is only the second SF magazine I 
have read, I have been raiding the SF section at the library since 
I was in sixth grade, so I am not a new hand at this stuff 

I am overjoyed by the prospect of I, Robot becoming a movie. If 
done properly, it should help move SF movies one step closer to 
being equal to the books and magazines, instead of lagging far be- 
hind as they have been. If this movie makes it to the big screen, I 
will have heart-felt gladness for Isaac. If it doesn’t. I’ll have 10,000 
nasty letters sent to the so-called producers. 

Speaking of the Master of Science Fiction, it has always bothered 
me when people use Dr. Asimov, Mr. Asimov, etc. Because of the 
informal and personal way in which he writes his introductions, I 
feel as if he is an old friend I have known for years. If you are 
reading this, Isaac, and don’t like me using your first name, please 
inform me and I will stop instantly. 

And before I forget, will you send me one "How to Mail a Man- 
uscript to lA’sfm” kit as soon as possible. \Yes, GHS\ 

Good luck. 

Todd Tomason 
304 E 9th St. 

Spencer LA 51301 

PS: Judging by the quality of your magazine, you’re not really going 
to need the good luck wish, but I couldn’t think of anjdhing else to 
use as a closing. 

PPS: Dr. Asimov is awfully formal, isn’t it? 

I am perfectly content to have everyone call me Isaac. Believe it or 
not, I like the name. 

— Isaac Asimov 

Dear Dr. Asimov: 

I have just finished "Nothing for Nothing” {lA’sfm, Feb. 1979), 
and while I liked the story, I must caution you to play by the rules. 
Rule #1: think up new plots. In "The Big Front Yard,” Clifford D. 
Simak impressed aliens with a practical human idea: paint, and we 
traded it for advanced technology, the saddle (electromagnetic, to 



be sure, but a saddle nonetheless). In your story, we get the bow 
and arrow in return for representational art. In "Rescue Mission,” 
Arthur C. Clarke sends starfaring races the clear message that if 
they aren’t afraid of humans yet they had better be, and soon. 
Clarke’s "Encounter in the Dawn” tells of an alien survey team that 
bestows a knife and a flashlight on a pre-Babylonian Earther. 

There might be an editorial on imagination and invention in this. 
Do you suppose that we struggling young science fiction writers 
would see print if we strung old hats together like that? A plot 
about a robot detective has been buzzing my brain lately. He catches 
claustrophobia in some steel caves and then sets up a foundation to 
preserve civilization when the galactic empire collapses. Get it?— just 
like monasteries preserved classical learning after the fall of Rome. 

Please advise an innocent fellow like myself if such a plot might 
amount to anything. 

Originally yours. 

John A. Schaible 

Holly MI 

Remember Rule #1A: There Are No New Plots, Only New Vari- 

— Isaac Asimov 

Dear Dr. Asimov, 

I would like to explain to you how I read an SF magazine. What 
I do is leaf through the magazine, checking each piece for its merits 
as I go. I give each story one paragraph. If I am not captivated by 
the writing at the end of that first paragraph I quit and continue 
leafing. I have gone through entire magazines in this fashion, reach- 
ing the back cover in total frustration. 

Why, you ask. Because I have a tremendous amount of book fic- 
tion which I could be enjoying instead of wading through poor mag- 
azine fiction. 

One paragraph may seem like an awfully poor effort on my part, 
but I feel it is all I, as a reader, owe the writer. That first paragraph 
should contain a lot. It should set the stage by describing clearly 
and concisely the general setting (I don’t like being left in the darklk 
it should contain some sort of action, using lots of good, beefy verbs; 
and it should develop the character(s) at least a little, perhaps by 
exposing an idiosyncrasy. All of the above should be crammed in 
there as straightforward and as compact as possible. A writer should 



take great pains with such an important part of his work: the be- 

The reason I’m telling you this is because your magazine has done 
quite well. (I can almost hear the "Of course it has!”) One or two 
stories out of every issue come close enough to the above criteria 
that I will continue reading them. This statement should be taken 
as a high compliment! I have yet to read a magazine in which every 
story started with a "grabber.” Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Mag- 
azine comes the closest to that imaginary, one-hundred-percent good 
prozine. You may yet keep me from catching up on my non-maga- 
zine fiction. 

Finally, I would like to humbly ask for a copy of your requirement 
sheet and format information as one of these days I may have fin- 
ished a manuscript of my own that will — hopefully — pass my own 

Fannishly yours. 

John W. Reed 
2013 So. 17th St. 

Rogers AR 72756 

You forget that reactions are subjective. What may grab you in- 
stantly may not grab others, so we dare not use you as an absolute 

— Isaac Asimov 

What any successful writer must do, however, is to get a large 
proportion of the John Reeds of our audience interested early in each 
story. That’s not easy; but very little about good writing is easy — and 
making it look easy is about the hardest part of writing. 

— George H. Scithers 

Dear Dr. Asimov and Mr. Scithers, 

You seem sincere about wanting readers’ comments, so here goes. 
The stories I feel most cheated by are those which add a science 
fiction gimmick to a story which belongs in another magazine. (I’m 
talking about plots, not about the writing.) Examples: "African 
Blues,” Feb. 78, where the blue wo/man was from space, but the 
story was still about an earthlike birth (which I would rather not 
be reminded of); and "Up-Top Summer,” Feb. ’78, in which country 
folk meet a modern con man whom they get rid of by launching him 
into space. 



I feel betrayed by stories like "The Bitter End,” Sept. -Oct. ’78, 
when I find I am reading about a regular old wizard, and "A Bait 
of Dreams,” Feb. ’79, which tantalizes the reader (by the Ranga eye) 
but doesn’t follow through on its potential. (Sure, it served to get 
the heroine into trouble, but she becomes a victim of over- 
kill — ^bondage, branding, rape, whipping — shades of Rosemary Rog- 
ers, sans dashing hero.) 

Long fiction which gets too fat around the middle is frustrating, 
Most of us don’t have a lot of time to read, and we want to get the 
most from it. (Incidentally, did you intentionally go monthly during 
skiing season? I’m feeling snowed.) (Sorry.) 

Science fact has its place, but "On Kepler, Newton, & Co.,” Feb. 
’79, was a bit much. I felt like it was "assigned reading,” so I quit. 
Letters are usually interesting, but don’t your feet get wet from all 
that kissing? 

Now for the good part. About the only story I ever read twice (by 
choice) was John Ford’s "There Will be a Sign,” Jan. -Feb. ’78. The 
writing was tight (not one slack clause!), the suspense was main- 
tained, and the human emotion came through with impact. Please, 
bring some more from Mr. Ford. "A Time for Terror,” March ’79, 
was another story that gives the reader something of value and 
dares him to brush it off like dandruff from a coat. 

I hope your writers take these comments as they were meant — in 
a positive vein. 

Yours for a better /A ’s/m. 

Patricia Kaspar 
20822 Meadow Oak Rd. 
Saratoga CA 95070 

Feet-kissing? We presume our readers are sincere as — we pre- 
sume — you are. 

— Isaac Asimov 

Dear Dr. Asimov and/or Mr. Scithers, 

Okay, okay, so I like puns too. But if you’re going to print this 
many, you might as well call it Isaac Asimov’s Pun Magazine] So 
let’s tone down the puns and bring up the science fiction again, 

I’ll bet that 99% of your readers haven’t noticed something crucial 
about your magazine: YOU DON’T USE COLUMNS. Unlike most 
magazines, who divide that pages up into two columns, you keep 



your lines going all the way across the page. Columns give me 
headaches. They are confusing and hard to read. 

Along with most of your readers, I’d say you have an excellent 
magazine. I especially enjoyed James Gunn’s articles, "On the Road 
to Science Fiction.” Aside from a few points, "Nothing for Nothing” 
seems to be the kind of story that has been done so many times that 
I shudder at the thought of reading just one more. Come on. Dr. 
Asimov, you can do better than that! 

About the question of the age of your readers — I’m thirteen. 

And thanks for not printing those stories about the end of the 
world, in capital letters. After just a few issues oi Analog, F & SF, 
and Galaxy I felt ready to commit suicide. 

One more thing: Perhaps some of your readers don’t know it, but 
The Fountains of Paradise is Arthur C. Clarke’s last book. I think 
he deserves a tribute. We’re all going to miss him terribly. 

Yours truly, 

Scott Hewitt 
Mountainside NJ 

Arthur Who? 

— Isaac Asimov 

Mr. Asimov, 

May I please be one of the thousands that have received your 
requisite for manuscript format? [Of course! GHS] With that out of 
the way I’d like to comment on a collection of related short stories 
I just finished reading. After passing it by many times (sorry)^ I 
finally decided to pick up I, Robot and read it. You see, I go to the 
University of Illinois at Circle Campus where I belong to the Science 
Fiction Society which has a fairly extensive science fiction library. 
Well, the book I picked up happens to be one of the original paper- 
backs printed (circa 1956) complete with a picture of the author on 
the back cover. Who, I asked myself, is that dashing young man 
with the dark hair, suitcoat, and tie? Of course I knew who it was 
(short sideburns and all) but was still shocked, I just could not think 
of that man in the photo as "The Good Doctor.” I love the magazine, 
new talent deserves a chance and it warms my heart to see it. Keep 
up the good work! 

Sincerely yours. 


Roberta A. Beal 

The hair may have grayed, and the clothing grown more informal, 
but r m just as dashing as ever. Would I lie to you? 

— Isaac Asimov 

Dear Mr. Scithers, 

In my usual manner, I have idly sat by and watched the world go 
by, forming comments and criticisms, but saying nothing to anyone. 
But Ginny Martin’s derogatory remarks concerning the short story 
"Bat Durston, Space Marshal” was a bit much. I am forced to speak. 

"Bat Durston, Space Marshal” is one of the few stories my mem- 
ory has retained in its "easy access and recall” area. I loved the 
story and surprisingly, so did my brain. (We don’t often agree.) This 
only happens when there is a profound and necessary piece of 
knowledge to be retained, or a positive feeling to be reinforced. In 
the case of this story, it was the latter. 

I can agree with Ginny that "BD,SM” was not good. I can agree, 
but I won’t. Sure it was a "bad” story. Sure it had everything in it 
that the paragraph in page two said not to have. Sure it was cliched. 

that’s why you published it. 

It is because of stories like this one that I read science fiction and 
very little of any other kind of fiction. I like to be taught while 
being entertained, and most asimovian science fiction does this. 
This is why I subscribe to lA’sfm. This story, and others such as 
"But, Do They Ride Dolphins?” (Excellent!), "A Hideous Splotch of 
Purple” (Fantastically written!), "Polly Plus,” and the Momus tales 
are among the many that have a bit of knowledge that can be used, 
or can produce a feeling that needs to be felt. These stories show 
us, either directly, or indirectly, how to make ourselves better. And 
anything that does that cannot be all bad. 

Don’t stop publishing stories like "Bat Durston, Space Marshal,” 
Mr. Scithers. I need them. We need them. 


B. R. Barbre 
Harvard MA 

The best stories are those people fight over. There’s a certain dull- 
ness in having stories universally accepted (except when they’re mine). 

— Isaac Asimov 



Dear Mr. Scithers, 

I find both of your magazines heartening, like a breath of fresh 
air. While occasionally lacking in technical polish, most of the sto- 
ries are both original and inspirational, qualities most welcome in 
this day of apparent doom, gloom, breast-beating, and creative 
bankruptcy. Thank you for shedding a little light. 

Specific stories that have really impressed me so far are the Mo- 
mus series, "Ker-Plop,” and "Back to Byzantium.” They all make 
me want to sit right down and start typing — if only on an entry in 
the horrid pim contest (and I don’t even make puns as a rule). You’re 
a life-saver. Thanks again. 


Theresa Holmes 
Flat Rock MI 

Lacking in technical polish? Never! Technical russian, maybe. 

— Isaac Asimov 

Dear Sir; 

I am steadfastly resisting an urge to yell from my window, "At 
last! I’ve discovered a science fiction magazine with a sense of hu- 
manity as well as hardware, and a sense of humor.” Since true fans 
of science fiction are relatively rare here in Hannibal, Missouri, 1 
doubt such a revelation would be well received. 

1 thoroughly enjoyed the entire magazine. But, 1 especially liked 
"Outside” by Keith Davis. It was so well done that the ending took 
me by surprise and sent me into hysterics at the final image. An- 
other favorite of mine was "A Bait Of Dreams” by Jo Clayton. This 
one appealed to me on its strength of characterization and skillful 
blending of the culture that had molded the character. 

Thanks for an excellent magazine! 1 only wish I had discovered 
it earlier. 


Sharon K. Wisdom 
Hannibal MO 

Since I am a Mark Twain idolater, I am certain that Hannibalians 
must be SF fans. Look again. Surely you have made a mistake. 

— Isaac Asimov 



Dear CJeorge and others. 

Being still behind in my subscription and just finished reading 
the February issue of lA’sfm I figured, "What the heck, go ahead 
and write a letter.” It is always my policy to try and tell someone 
when they are doing a great job. You guys really deserve it. Starting 
with the 1978 Sept./Oct. issue I have thoroughly enjoyed each one. 
I’m not one to give critical reviews to each story but suffice it to say 
the overall content has been outstanding. Being almost as gray as 
the good Doctor A., I’ve been a science fiction reader for more years 
that I really want to think about. 

You asked for some pertinent information on why we bought the 
first issue, etc. I must confess, I haven’t seen an issue on the local 
magazine stands. I subscribe to the S.F. Book Club and, as I recall, 
received a subscription form with one of their mailings. The other 
possibility may have been an ad in Galaxy to which I was subscrib- 
ing at that time. (Yes, I’ve quit, mostly because I don’t like stories 
which carry on from one issue to another.) Anyway, it was the As- 
imov name that hooked me. I’m glad it did. 


Linda A. Kropff 
San Jose CA 

How can a child prodigy like myself have become a standard for 
grayness in a mere half-century? What a tragedy! 

— Isaac Asimov 

Dear Dr. A & Mr. Scithers: 

Okay, okay — I can’t resist the temptation any longer; enclosed is 
the required self-addressed, stamped envelope. Please send me your 
manuscript requirement sheet and format information. \Pone! GHS] 

After reading science fiction for about 25 years, I finally found a 
science fiction magazine that I could read from cover to cover — ^your 
March 1979 issue. In all my previous attempts to enjoy pulp science 
fiction, I was frustrated by unsatisfactory stories and inevitably 
abandoned each magazine before examining every story. I was par- 
ticularly alienated (an excellent term to use in a discussion of sci- 
fi) by the stylistic, non-science trend of the late ’60s. Your approach 
is a welcome change. 

Your March 1979 issue was an excellent mix of long and short 
material. I’d like to see more of the short forms. Pohl’s "Mars Masked” 
was absorbing, but the ending was telegraphed earlier in the story. 



and it was a let-down, a non-resolution of events. (That’s one of the 
late-60s trends I disliked, and if this hadn’t been the last story in 
the magazine, I might have abandoned it there.) 

The biographical notes on each writer are interesting, but I’d also 
like to see some old-fashioned blurbs that give an idea of the nature 
of each story. 

In any case, your magazine is excellent yet still improving. I look 
forward to the next issue. Please keep up the good work. 

Best regards. 

Bob Perkins 
Los Angeles CA 

The difficulty with blurbs is that they can mislead — or they can 
give away the story. Fve suffered from both varieties. 

— Isaac Asimov 

Dear Dr. Asimov & Mr. Scithers: 

I want you to know that the March 1979 issue of lA’sfm is the 
first SF magazine Fve ever read cover to cover. I enjoyed every last 
bit of it. 

However my favorite story was "Someone Else’s House,” by Lee 
Chisholm. This was my first acquaintance with her work and I hope 
it won’t be the last. 

You guys certainly seem to have talent for publishing readable 
stories. In fact they are so readable Fm uneasy. From my experience 
of recent years the fact that your magazine is so entertaining con- 
tradicts its reality. Will the Good Doctor please pinch someone of 
his choice to be sure? Whatever you decide, real or not, please keep 
it coming. 

Would you please send me information on your story needs and 
manuscript format. [Yes! GHS] 


Larry R. Card 
444 N. Eaton Ave. 
Indianapolis IN 46219 

Don't be uneasy. With a team like George, Shawna, and Joel, how 
can we miss? 

— Isaac Asimov 



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FREE Promotional albums, concert tickets, 
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FOR anyone who wants the satisfaction and 
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Why not? Take 4 for 100 now 


4580 Cwmber of Culdi. By Katherine 
Kurtz In an alternate universe, lord 
Camber, member of a race with magical 
powers, fights for right. Volume I in The 
Legends of Camber of Culdi. Pub. ed. 

4606 Selnl Camber. By Katherine 
Kurtz, for the good of the realm. Camber 
must change forms with a murdered man 
— permanently. Volume II in The 
Legends of Camber of Culdi. Pub. ed 

2543 The Drafenrideri el Pen. By Anne 
McCaftrey A mammoth volume containing 
aH three novels OregeiHHfM. Orsfengoeil 
and The WMis Oraten. Comb pub ed. 
$26 85 

5207. Title. By John Varley. When a 
ship is snatched from space, the crew 
finds itself in an alien world - inside 
another space ship. Eipllelt sexual con* 
teet may be efleeslve te same. Pub. ed. 

7631 Galactic Empires. Brian Aldiss. 
ed. Two-volume anthology of 26 stories 
by famous authors, Clarke. Asimov and 
others covers the Rise and fall of Galactic 
Empires Comb pub ed $17 90 

An Extraordinary Offer 

1040 The Avatar. By Poul Anderson. 
Oaring men and women brave the un- 
known potentials of an alien transport 
machine — and discover more than ex- 
pected! Pub. ed. $10.95 

6593 Han Solo at Stars' End. By Brian 
Daley. That intrepid interstellar smuggler. 
Han Solo, and his furry pal Chewbacca 
are back! Pub. ed. S8.95 

6536 The Best Science Fiction oi the 
Yiier #1. Terry Car. ed. A dozen stories 
from the past year by Varley. Ellison. 
Vinge. other favorites. Special edition. 

6221 The Foundation Trilogy. By Isaac 
Asimov The ends of the galaxy revert to 
barbarism. An SF classic Comb. pub. 
ed $20 85 

0075 The Chronicles of Amber. By 
Roger Zelazny At last — the Amber se 
ries IS complete! Two glorious volumes 
contain Nine Princes in Amber; The 
Guns of Avalon; Sign of the Unicorn; The 
Hand of Oberon; The Courts of Chaos. 
Comb pub ed $30.30 

What a way to get acquainted with these science fiction greats. Browse through the list of 
books on this page and choose any 4 for just 10p (plus shipping and handling.) It's the 
most extraordinary sample of science fiction ever offered in one package. 

6532 The Hugo Winners, Vol. I A II. 
Giant 2-in-1 volume of 23 award-winning 
stories. 1955 to 1970. Asimov introduces 
each. Pub. ed. $15.45 

0141 Time Storm. By Gordon R. 
Dickson. Gripping adventure and fascinat- 
ing ideas set in a vast scope of time and 
space. Pub. ed $10.00 

4523 Sterdence. By Spider and Jeanne 
Robinson. A dancer s art opens the way 
to communication with aliens. Pub ed. 

4697 The Fountains of Paredise. By 
Arthur C. Clarke. Important new novel by 
one of the superstars of science fiction 
Pub. ed. $10.00 

4630 The Stainless Steel Rat Wants 
You. By Harry Harrison. The adventures 
of Slippery Jim diGriz. as he sets out to 
save the universe Special edition 

4754 The Book of Morgsino, By C.J. 
Cherryh. Exciting 3-ln-1 volume contains 
Gate o( Ivrel, Well of Shiuan, and Fires 
of Azeroth. Special edition. 

4721 Brother to Demons. Brother to 
Gods. By Jack Williamson. Humans may 
become extinct — supplanted by races 
they created themselves! Pub. ed. $10.00 

4564 Medusa's Children. By Bob 
Shaw Vicious squid-like creatures 
threaten the existence of humans living 
on a planet of water Pub. ed. $7 95 

Cut ilong line and mall — nn poatage necessaiyl 

How The 

Science Fiction Book Ciub Works: 

When your application for membership is accepted, 
you’ll receive your introductory package of four 
books for just 10^, plus shipping and handling. You 
may examine them in your home, and if not com- 
pletely satisfied, return them within ten days— mem- 
bership will be cancelled and you'll owe nothing. 

About every 4 weeks (14 times a year), we’ll send 
you the Club’s bulletin, Things to Conte, describing 
the 2 coming Selections and a variety of Alternate 
choices. If you want both Selections, you need do 
nothing; they’ll be shipped automatically. 

If you don’t want a Selection, or prefer an 
Alternate, or no book at all, just fill out the con- 
venient form always provided, and return it to us by 
the date specified. 

We allow you at least ten days for making your 
decision. If you do not receive the form in time to 
respond within 10 days, and receive an unwanted 
Selection, you may return it at our expense. 

As a member you need take only 4 Selections or 
Alternates during the coming year. You may resign 
any lime thereafter, or remain a member as long as 
you wish. One of the two Selections each 
month is only $2.49. Other Selections are slightly 
higher but always much less than Publishers’ Editions. 
A shipping and handling charge is added to all ship- 
ments. Send no money now. Cut off this postage paid 
reply card and mail tc^ay. 

Yes, I want to join 

The Science Fiction Book Club 

Science Fiction Book Club 

Dept. X151, Garden City, N.Y 11530 
Please accept me as a member. I agree to the mem- 
bership plan as described above. Send me the 4 
books whose numbers I have indicated below, and 
bill me just 100, plus shipping and handling. I agree 
to take 4 additional books at regular low club 
prices in the coming year and may resign any time 
thereafter. SFC books are selections for mature 



(Please print) 

Address Apt. #. 

Clty_ State Zip 

Order not valid without signature. 

If under 18, parent must sign. 

The Science Fiction Book Club offers its own com~ 
plete hardbound editions sometimes altered in size 
to fit special presses and save members even more. 
Members accepted in U.S.A. and Canada only. 
Canadian members will be serviced from Toronto. 
Offer slightly different in Canada. 


^ What if God is a 
computer? (#8532— 
see other side) 

^ What if you could 
build an elevator to the 
stars? (#4697) 

What if a Thread 
could devastate a 
planet? (#2543) 

What if time goes 
mad — tomorrow 7 

% What if you 
had to plan the 
survival of galactic 
civilization? (#6221) 

^ What if? Why 
not — stimulate 
your imaginati(M 
with the world’^ 
finest specula! 
tive fiction? 

Take 4 Science Fiction^ 
Bestsellers for 1 00 
■ with membership seleclf4n 

Cut tlong IIm ind mill no potUgo necoiMiyl 







Science Fiction? 
Book Club 

Garden City ^ 

N.Y. 11530